Archive for the Interview Category

Interview with Sami Hinkka [Ensiferum]

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , on 20th July 2020 by Nico Davidson

Ensiferum, are perhaps one Finland’s greatest musicial exports, with an ever evolving sound. With the new album out, Nico sat down and had an email-based chat with the band’s bassist, Sami.

Nico: Thalassic is an interesting name for the new album. Given the definition of the word, and based on the track listing, it’s obvious that there is a sea or oceanic theme in the album.  How did it come about to have this theme as opposed to other themes?

Sami: Hi! I’m actually very happy with the album title because as a word it sounds like it’s matching well with the bands name and it sums up the theme of the album. Sea or water felt like a good and “wide” enough because every culture have mythologies and legends that are linked to sea so I knew that there would be more than enough good stories to draw inspiration from.

N: How does the new album differ from previous releases?

S: The composing process went as it usually goes with this band: slowly. Of course the new member Pekka Montin gave a totally new ”tool” for us with his incredible voice and naturally we arranged songs that we made the most of it. Obviously the lyrical theme makes this different kind of album compared to old albums.

For the production team we had one new and one old member: we had the honor to get Janne Joutsenniemi to produce and record and Jens Bogren to mix the album and we are very happy with the result.

N: What was the writing process for the new album like? Did you have an idea of what you wanted to the new album to sound like before writing it?

S: Usually we have raw idea how a new album should sound like but it always depends how the songs are progressing because we always have lots of songs under work and naturally we can’t finish them all so once we have enough songs to record an album, then it’s time to book a studio. This is very cool way because then we always have raw material to work with.

N: Some fans have commented that the singles you’ve released from the album so far, especially Rum, Women, Victory, have a pirate metal sound to them. Would you describe the new album as such?

S: Heh, to be honest I never thought that someone would think this song as a pirate song! It tells about the brave men of Royal Navy and the daily rum dose they used to get. I have no idea what ”a pirate metal” -sound is, I guess Alestorm’ish? And I find our sound to be completely different but of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

N: In your own opinion, which song would you say defines Ensiferum?

S: We have such a wide musical horizon so this is really hard. Maybe “Victory Song” has many Ensiferum’s main elements so if I would need to represent the band with one song, I might choose that one.

N: If you could replace the soundtrack to any film, which one would it be and why?

S: Hmmm, I’m sorry I can’t come up with any movie that has such a terrible soundtrack that it would need to be changed.

N: Thalassic is obviously out now. Have you made a start on new music or are you taking a break from writing before you start thinking about the next album?

S: Because of COVID-19 chaos there are no tours coming up in a long time so we will start working with some new material soon.

N: Do you think you’ll follow any other themes in the future with upcoming albums?

S: We haven’t talked about this yet so it’s too early to say. I like working this way with my power metal band Metal De Facto, our every album has a different theme. I don’t know will we continue doing this with Ensiferum but at least we did it once.

Ensiferum’s new album, Thallasic is out now!

Interview with Auger

Posted in Interview with tags , , , on 29th June 2020 by izaforestspirit

Two years after discovering them at Lumous Gothic Festival, Iza caught up with Kyle J. Wilson of the British darkwave duo Auger. They discussed their band’s new album ‘Insurgence’, live streaming and other forms of lock-down entertainmnent. Check it out:

First of all, how are you doing?

We’re great thank you, well as good as you can be in a global crisis…

Congratulations on your new album ‘Insurgence’! I really enjoyed it. This is now your third studio record. Auger has come a long while since your debut album ‘The Awakening’ back in 2017. Can you tell us about the creative process and inspirations for this album? 

Thank you so much, I’m super pleased you enjoyed it. Absolutely, so like The Awakening, Insurgence was based around a story. Painting a picture of a post-apocalyptic world that doesn’t feel so far from reality given everything that’s going on.

If you were to pick a track from ‘Insurgence’ to act as an introduction to the band for new listeners, which one would it be and why?

This is a tricky one, not only because we’re so pleased with every song on the album, but because we strive to create a diverse listening experience; to put it plainly, every song is different and the album ranges from full-synthwave to out-and-out industrial tracks. I would say, however, that I’d recommend listening to ‘Tell Me I’m Wrong.’ It’s a great taster for what the album holds, it’s melodic, rocky and it features a very talented young singer, Imogen Evans, who adds an angelic female touch to it.

‘Insurgence’ features a wide range of different styles. I detected everything from electro rock, industrial metal to synth pop and darkwave. For example ‘My Death’ is very melodic and synth-pop style. What is the story behind that track?

Definitely. When I wrote My Death I was listening to a lot of Depeche Mode (can you tell?) and I wanted to try and encapsulate their sound and interpret it in a more Auger-way. In terms of lyrics, the song is about someone who feels deeply overwhelmed with the situation (that situation being the end of the world). They fantasize about what it would’ve been like to have seized more opportunities when they were still attainable; including admitting to love.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bgmRUfnC2E

The album also includes collaboration with a young musician called Imogen Evans. Who is she and what made you decide to collaborate with her?

So Imogen has come into my studio a few times over the past couple of years, mainly performing her own songs, but the second I first heard her voice I knew I needed her to sing on an Auger song; and it worked even better than I had imagined. She’s a real delight to work with and we have a laugh every time she’s here.

The global coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the music industry with thousands of events being cancelled and postponed. How has this affected Auger?

Well it has cancelled the first part of our album tour, postponing many shows into 2021. But we’ve not let this get to us! Instead we’ve hosted five live-streamed shows, each have run for three-hours and accumulated over 10,000 views. We’ve also begun to create some more YouTube specific content, run competitions and all sorts. We have really tried to think of as many ways to keep in touch with our amazing community and boost spirits where we can. We’re not going to let COVID-19 beat us!

With all tours now on hold you must have a lot of spare time on your hands. Besides live streaming and promoting the new album what else have you been up to?

Well, as I mentioned before, Kieran and I have begun to create some YouTube videos to grow our channel. We’ve been playing games, telling stories and trying some horrible food and it’s been great fun. And aside from that, a spot of gardening, lots of walks and a spot of decorating in the house.

Let’s talk about the newest trend in the music industry – live streaming. I’ve noticed that you have done some streamed acoustic sets recently. How does this compare to a real live show? What are the pros and cons of streaming vs. live from your point of view?

It’s very bizarre. Not at all in a bad way, it’s just an incredibly strange concept that you’re performing to your laptop and talking to a screen… It certainly gets some getting used to. But we love it. We were able to do a live stream together a couple of weeks back and it was great fun, the fans responded so well and it’s a great opportunity to chat, answer questions and just have a good laugh with everyone during these strange times. I don’t think you can compare it to playing a live show, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. We do miss the live shows tremendously, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop going live on Facebook.

Which festival/event are you looking forward to the most next year once the pandemic is over?

Out Of Line Weekender of course, that we’re delighted to be playing. But also, all my gig tickets have been rescheduled for next year so I’m excited to see Jimmy Eat World, Suzanne Vega and go to Amphi Festival 2021.

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and our readers?

Thank you so much for streaming, downloading and purchasing the album – don’t stop, and we’ll see you soon! Take care, #teamauger!

https://www.facebook.com/pg/AugerUK

https://darktunes.bandcamp.com/album/insurgence

Blaze Bayley Interview

Posted in Festival, Interview with tags , , , on 4th August 2017 by mickbirchy

Mick had a little chat with Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden, Wolfsbane) before his show at SOS Festival. Here’s the interview:

Mick: The new album Endure and Survive – Infinite Entanglement Part II has dropped this year. How has it been releasing the second part to this massive concept?

 

Blaze: Oh it’s been fantastic. The whole tour of Endure and Survive has gone so much better than we could have hoped for really. All of the new songs [from the new Endure and Survive album] that we have put into the set have gone down really well and people have said this album is the best album I have ever done, in my entire career. So, it’s gone really well and as for something that is such a big concept, I think people are just ready for these kind of albums. It’s a narrative that carries over three albums, the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy. The first part being Infinite Entanglement, the second being this new album and we’re currently working on the songs for the third album right now.  Those songs will be recorded in October/November time. It’s going really well.

 

Mick: I’ve been listening to the new album and I have been enjoying it. The one song that stood out to me was “Remember”. I think it stood out because it a bit more slowed down and had a lot of folk-y instrumentation. Could you tell a bit more about that song and what it means in context? As I have developed my own meaning and I wanted your thoughts on it.

 

Blaze: Well, in the scheme of the album, the whole theme is of a man has to decide whether he is human or not as his consciousness has been loaded into a machine body. So what he has left is the memory of being human. He has the consciousness, he thinks of himself as human but in fact he has a machine body. This song “Remember”, goes back to a time where there was happiness, a rare thing in the life of this central character, and that’s what they are remembering when someone says ‘You have to let go and sometimes you have to just live in the moment, you have to remember that this life is just a series of moments’. That’s why it’s called “Remember”, the character has had some great moments you had these things happen to them. They have to remember how it felt in that moment and then perhaps they can get that feeling back of being in this moment.

 

Mick: I think that’s why it stuck out to me. I took it out of context of the album and applied it to myself. I have been through some hard times in my life and I just remember being happy in myself. I just like how you can take a part of a grander story, such as a concept album, and it makes sense on it’s own. When it comes to songwriting is that something you have to take into account. Not just the album will work as a concept, but making every song make sense in themselves?

 

Blaze: I realise it’s quite a big thing that we set ourselves and it’s always a challenge. What we said was, if you know nothing about the story and don’t know it’s part of a trilogy of albums, you still have to listen to every song on their own. Without knowing the story and what should happen, is a similar thing that happened to you. A song will catch you and you’ll want to figure out what that song means in relation to the other songs of the story. I had to be a good album that you could listen to on it’s own and didn’t know it was connected to the others, but if you became more into it and got more interested in the lyrics then perhaps you would start to find the rest of the story. This journey that this person goes on.

 

Mick: So, in saying that are there any tips you could give a band or artist who maybe wants to make an album(s) like this one?

 

Blaze: I think in recent times, what I would say to any bands starting off or before making their first big records, is that the world has changed so much since I started. You can’t be in the mindset of, I play my guitar really well, that’s enough, it’s not. What you’ve got to do is get confident with recording yourself well. Get used to doing it yourself, the technology exists now where you can make your own album quality demos. So you have to do that. It’s your duty now. If you want freedom, true freedom as an artist, it can’t be just singing and playing well. You have to master recording that instrument, no matter what it is. The technology exists and it’s nowhere near as expensive as it was a few years ago. I didn’t exist when I started, we used cassette tapes but even so we tried to get good demos together. You can’t get bound up in the demo, I think what you have to is jam through the idea and live with that idea. Then put it away, walk away from it and come back to it. Everybody I’ve met who’s learnt to record themselves did so because they were pissed off by an engineer who didn’t have a clue how to make an electric guitar sound like an electric guitar. They’ve said how come I, with one guitar, and one microphone can make it sound right. But the guy in the £25 an hour studio makes it sound like it’s in a colander in a shed. It doesn’t make sense. Everyone I’ve met who’s now in production, did so because they had to because no one could make their instruments sound right.

 

Mick: Do you see an advantage of being independent rather than being on a big record label?

 

Blaze: As an artist I’m completely independent, I don’t have a big label, I am the label. The reason I can do what I do is because people pre-order my albums without knowing what it’s going to be like. They send the money for it, I’m then able to make the album and then send it to them. So far that’s worked. I have this incredible support from hugely loyal fans that enables me to make the music that I want to make and tour in the place I want to tour. So I can come here and play this great festival, SOS, where it’s all independent and original bands. Then I can play smaller venues across Europe, I can do bigger festivals. The luxury of it is that I don’t go back to anywhere I don’t like. So anywhere they don’t care about the sound, anywhere that doesn’t treat fans with respect, I don’t go back.

 

Mick: You’ve have a career that has spanned a long, long time now. What is the one piece of work that you are particularly proud of. Be it a gig or a song or an album. What sticks in your head about your career?

 

Blaze: Well, I think having a song that went into the top 10, around the world. When I was in Iron Maiden, Madonna was at the top of the charts. The X Factor, knocked Madonna off the top of the charts in some countries. “Man on the Edge” was a song I wrote with Janick Gears in Iron Maiden. That song went to the top 10 in many countries around the world and actually hit number 1 in some countries as well. That was such a huge achievement for someone who comes from a working class family and had a dream. I used to work in a hotel, working nights, cleaning the hotel, cleaning the toilets such and such. I’ve had all manner of jobs and the reason I do what I do is because I love to sing and now 30 odd years after I started, I’m independent doing my own thing.

 

Mick: How do you feel like you’ve evolved as an artist over the years, if at all?

Blaze: I think I really found my voice in Iron Maiden. You know, in Wolfsbane, I loved doing that and we’re still together and we have a reunion coming up in December. But my voice back then didn’t really have the range that I would later develop. I had the enthusiasm and the emotion but I didn’t have the range nor the soul. In Iron Maiden, when recorded the  The X Factor and Virtual XI being in that studio I really found that other part of my voice. After Maiden that’s when I started using my voice in a new way so I think as I got to my acoustic album Russian Holiday that’s when I really felt like I had a really good control of my voice. As I came to these most recent album I felt like now I have the tools, now I can have a lyric and I can say what tone, what breadth, what texture do I need to create so that the emotion shines through to the listener. My ultimate goal is, if English is not your first language you still know what the song is about.

 

Mick: My final question is one I always love ending on. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

 

Blaze: That’s a really good question and I don’t know what the answer is really. However, I suffer with nerves and people are very disappointed when they ask, ‘What kind of rituals do you have backstage’ and I know they’re expecting me to be jumping and getting hyped. You know swigging Jack Daniels and doing lines of coke. It’s the complete opposite for me, I get nervous about going out on stage and I have to put myself into a place of complete calm. When you come into the Blaze Bayley dressing room, it’s most boring place you have ever seen at any gig. You’d probably think to yourself ‘How are they going to bring the roof down, when they’re this boring’. Just no excitement in the dressing, because all of that get’s in the way of the thought process that brings lyric to the place where my voice will connect with it. To bring this fresh feeling and emotion to the lyric.

It’s a thing that I’ve learned over the years. There have been times where I got over excited. Then I’ve forgotten the word to the song. The worst thing that ever happened was when we supported Helloween, and I went on and thought ‘god the band sounds shit’, then I realised that I was singing the words and melody to a totally different song. That’s what happens when I get over excited. So the biggest thing I’ve had to overcome is nerves really and the way I cope with it is to remain calm and keep focused on those first few songs.

 

Mick: Fantastic, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

http://www.blazebayley.net/

https://www.facebook.com/officialblazebayley

Interview with Janne Wirman (Children of Bodom)

Posted in Gig, Interview, Live with tags , , , , , on 19th March 2017 by mickbirchy

Before their set in Manchester, our writer, Mick Birchall sits with Janne Wirman from Children of Bodom to talk about 20 years of the band and how they kept up in the music industry. Also, touring and the music scene in general.

This year marks 20 years of Children of Bodom. How does it feel to be able to say that you have actually been going that long?

Yes, it’s crazy it really is.  We weren’t really expecting that when we started. Back then we were just kids and we played heavy metal metal. Yeah it’s great it really is. Just the though that we’ve made it this far.

You guys have played all around the world.  Would you say there a difference in audience, depending on where you go?

You be surprised on how little the differences are really. Metal heads are metal heads no matter where you go.  If there are differences then they’d be small things. Such as in Japan, the crowd will probably go completely silent between the songs, it feels a little awkward. However, it is a show of respect. So it’s things like that but when the music is on, it’s on!

Going for 20 years now and with 9 albums.  How do you feel you keep your music sounding new without wearing out the same sound, but also without compromising the core of the band?

That’s becoming a challenge after releasing so many albums and we definitely don’t want to be stuck to a formula or get stuck the mindset of “this worked well, let’s just do that again”. As a band you have to keep creating something new and you have to take a risk with something eventually. I mean there’s only so many bands that can release the same album over and over.

Over the years what is the one song you wish you had written as a band?

I would say Redneck by Lamb of God.

What would be the best band that you have opened for and what’s the best band that’s opened for you?

I’d say the best we’ve opened for is Slayer. We did a couple tour with them and it was just great.  Their level of production and how well the opening bands were treated it was just amazing.

On the other hand we’ve had the pleasure of having so many killer band open the show for us. We had this band recently play with us.  Havok they were really great, we’ve heard them play and every audience they’ve played for people have just loved them.  Also we have Oni with us on this tour. They’re really cool, with a xylophone player. If you’re into the weird stuff then Oni is for you.

What’s your impression of the more gimmicky bands out there.  The ones who will dress up and get into character for a show?

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it. Just don’t paste it over your image, if your band sound sounds fine without gimmicks then don’t paste it over the top of it.  Only do it if it’s natural to the kind of music that you’re trying to create. Also, if you’re going to do it, make it your own thing.  Don’t take another band idea and slap it over your band, try to be original with a concept.

So to end on. What was the hardest thing you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

We’ve had some obstacles in band. Obviously letting Roope (Latvala) go was a tough decision. We were struggling without him for sometime. When you’ve been in the industry for this long you’ve had up and and downs. At the end of the day, everyone in the band has to believe in the same thing, then between all of you you get through rough times. As long as you have you bandmates there’s very little that they’ll let you do wrong.

 

Interview and words by Mick Birchall

Interview with Finntroll

Posted in Festival, Interview, Live with tags , on 19th June 2016 by izaforestspirit

Iza had a little chat with Mörkö and Skrymer from Finntroll before their show at Tampere Metal Meeting yesterday.

Iza: Hi guys!

Finntroll: Hey..

Iza: How are you doing guys? How are you enjoying the festival so far?

Finntroll: We basically arrived here just like an hour ago so we’re preparing the stage and ready to rock n’ roll for the show.

Iza: Are you planning to watch any of the bands?

Finntroll: Hopefully… Hopefully we can see, for instance Kalmah because we will be on stage right after them. Then that’s our festival. After the show we’re going straight back home.

Iza: So what can we expect from your show tonight? More crazy troll music?

Finntroll: Yeah… Experience crazy madness and circus. That’s how it usually is… (laughs)

Iza: Shame about the weather. You had better weather the last time that I saw you live at a festival.

Finntroll: Yeah, it could be. It’s been raining all day. So it’s probably going to rain in the evening as well…

Iza: Well, thanks and good luck with the show! See you!

Finntroll: Thanks and see you later! It’s going to be good.

Stay tuned for the full festival report coming soon.

http://www.tamperemetalmeeting.fi/

http://www.finntroll-music.com/

Interview with Wildpath

Posted in Interview with tags , , on 14th May 2016 by mickbirchy

Our writer, Mick Birchall had a chat with the members of French progressive-symphonic metal band Wildpath, who played Quinphonic Festival in March. This interview goes into the band’s unique style, their experiences in the music industry and their first time playing to a UK crowd.

Mick: Coming off of this year’s Quinphonic Festival, how did you enjoy your first show in the UK?

Wildpath: It was a great experience! We met the British audience for the first time. They were curious about our music, attentive listeners and very open-minded. The RoadHouse team gave us a warm welcome, and all the organisation of the Quinphonic Festival was perfect! We left with only one thought in mind : We’re coming back as soon as possible!

Mick: You have such a creative sound, mixing a lot of different styles of music together. What influenced you as a band on the whole?

Wildpath: We all listen to different styles of music, and it probably influences our own music. For us, Wildpath should always be able to evolve. We want to have the same pleasure playing our music, and to do so, we think that renewing, experimenting, mixing styles is a good way to never grow tired. Our next album might be pure symphonic metal, as much as an orchestral or electro album.

Mick: Could you tell us a bit about your creative process from musical and lyrical standpoint?

Wildpath: We always like to work around a concept: One story through all the songs, connected with the same atmosphere, dynamics and narration. It helps us to find the ideas and to know how to lead them. However, we don’t want to impose that concept to our listeners, so each song is made as a stand alone, and takes its place in the common thread.

Mick: When it comes to songwriting, can it be difficult when making new songs not to tread the same water as the past?

Wildpath: We always try to break new grounds. For each album we have a new pace to work at. Nyx Secret was made quite like a “Best of” of a very large number of compositions. Non Omnis Moriar was written as a concept album that could be read in many different ways. Our last album, Disclosure was created especially for live shows, and then arranged and orchestrated for its final studio form. We like to work in that way: It’s really rewarding and exciting to take risks at any time in the creative process.

Mick: When it comes to translating playing in the studio to playing live, do you treat the songs any differently?

Wildpath: Yes we do. For our two first albums, we wanted to share different versions on albums and live shows. Live shows demand a specific energy and clarity, while albums must be listenable tirelessly, with many nuances to reward each additional listening. Since Underneath, we tried to combine both as best as possible, so now there is much more of a resemblance. The audience gave us a really good feedback so we kept this mindset for Disclosure.

Mick: Typically speaking of the genre of symphonic metal. I’m a big fan of this type of music and I’m seeing the genre grow all the time. Have you noticed the increase in interest for this music?

Wildpath: It’s a very dynamic style these days and it’s a pleasant thing to see. We are thrilled to hear bands working on new approaches. Since the emergence of the major names of the genre in the nineties, symphonic metal has known a great evolution, mixed with many other genres, which probably explains why it keeps growing and maturing over time.

Mick: So, Wildpath has been around since 2001 and you have 4 studio albums. What would say you have learned from those experiences?

Wildpath: We have learned to do as many things as possible by ourselves. We have quite precised ideas of what we want, so we work as much as possible independently. It’s hard sometimes, but always rewarding. We learn more each time, doing our videoclips, organizing most of our shows, managing all our artistic direction, our communication and our merchandising. It’s a real involvement in time and energy but we’re really happy with these choices, and we thank all of our fans. This is all the more moving to see that our community grows each time we give it out all on every aspect of the project.

Mick: Following that, what advice would you give to newer bands on the scene?

Wildpath: Musicians are becoming more and more independent thanks to less expensive and more versatile home studios, online distribution and community platforms. Although it demands more work because you have to deal with many aspects of the production. It’s a lot of dedication, time, discipline, learning and investments, but music is a job for passionate people, and as long as the passion is here, it’s one of the most beautiful jobs in the world.

Mick: So, what does the future hold for Wildpath right now, any upcoming plans?

Wildpath: We’re planning to keep promoting Disclosure in France, and if we have the opportunity, in Europe. In 2016, we recorded Still: Acoustic Live Experience. With this album, we want to be able to play our music in any place, not necessarily in a concert hall. Several acoustic shows are already planned. We also try to keep Wildpath active on internet, with music on free streaming, and with videos and various bonuses for our community… We’ve just started thinking about the next album by the way!

Mick: What is the hardest thing you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

Wildpath: Disclosure, our last album, was really risk-taking. The style was different compared to our previous albums. We knew the public would have mixed opinions, but even when you’re prepared to that, it’s always a difficult step. We wanted this change and we had confidence in this new direction. We’re happy to see that we’ve touched new people, and that some of them didn’t even listen to symphonic metal before, and also, we kept a large majority of our fans.

Mick: Thank you for taking the time to chat with Valkyrian Music.

Words and Interview by Mick Birchall

Interview with La-Ventura

Posted in Interview with tags , , on 15th April 2016 by mickbirchy

Fresh off of their performance at Quinphonic Festival 2 our writer, Mick Birchall chatted to frontwoman Carla van Huizen and bassist Mike Saffrie from La-Ventura. Where they discuss touring, influences, the symphonic metal genre and how music has kept them going.

Mick: So we have just come off of Quinphonic Festival, how did you enjoy it?

Carla & Mike: Quinphonic Fest and The UK were a blast! We had a fantastic time there, meeting many old and new fans and enjoying some great UK metal hospitality!

Mick: How did you like the UK crowds?

Mike: The crowd was fantastic, because they showed their appreciation in many ways, which is not always the case here back home. With the crowd we encountered at Quinphonic, you could see them enjoy the music and efforts of the bands where genuine reactions, before during and after the shows, were shown – prefect!

Carla: All we can say is this: UK crowds are AWESOME!

Mick: Is there any countries that you haven’t been to that you’d like to play in?

Carla: Well, the easiest of answers would be The States or Japan for instance for our kind of music, but we are glad and appreciate to do these trips closer to home here in Europe.

If we can do trips across the Oceans than of course we will do them, but for now we have a lot more to do here in Europe first!

Mick: To you, what is the most important thing about playing live?

Mike: Connecting with the audience and work your ass off to give them a great time! Worst scenario would be, seeing people leave during your concert, because they thought it isn’t worth their time. If it came about, because you as an artist did not give your best, then right so. We artists need to understand, that having an audience is not a standard, there is so much more people can do with their free time. When they choose to go to a gig, to see you, then we have to give them our a-game – nothing more, nothing less.

Mick: Typically speaking of the genre of symphonic metal and female fronted metal. I’m a big fan of the music that is produced and I’m seeing the genre grow all the time. With festivals like Metal Female Voices Fest (in Belgium), Quinphonic Festival and Muses of Metal (in UK) just as examples. Have you noticed the increase in interest for this type of music?

Mike: Yes, we are aware of this and it can work in our favor. To be truly honest: for me it is irrelevant if a band is female or male fronted: a band is either good or bad, regardless who fronts it.

Nevertheless, Metal has always been male dominant, so it is a good thing a female fronted band can have an edge to compete with established bands in the genre.

We now are at a point, that also for female fronted bands, the market is flooded with way to many (copy-cat) bands. Now it is clear bands need to have their own identity to survive. Now many more programs and line-ups at venues or festival are with both, male and female fronted bands to give the people the best. To me this is a good thing, to make sure that only the worthy can do the things needed to setup a good career and showcase the best of music for people to enjoy regardless if it is male or female fronted.

Mick: What do you think draws people to this type of music?

Mike: Pretty faces if it concerns female fronted…..?!?!!? ;)!

Mick: What do you feel drives you to make music and who influences you?

Mike: For me music has always been part of my live Even at an early age, Metal/ Rock was the one thing that really inspired me to pick up my guitar/ bass. Of course when looking at my age, Metallica was there to give me the first basics of how to riff.

12938164_1005385862831619_2290800798376230759_nBut it went all over the place. I listened to Death (Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic), got to know Machine Head (Burn my Eyes), went to Fear Factory (Demanufacture), to the new dawn of Metal with bands like Sevendust (Home), Soilwork (well all of their earlier stuff!) to nowadays even bands like Killswitch Engage (though I really miss Howard as singer, the new album has some great moments!)and Crown the Empire with their excellent musical skills and songwriting.    

Mick: What first inspired you into playing music, singing and songwriting?

Carla: Well, my first love for music came from listening to the top 40 hits, and watching the Eurovision Song Contest 😉 Even though I grew up with classical  music and learning to play flute, I always liked the Rock scene very much. It took me a lot of courage and self esteem to climb up a stage, myself. Just by incident I was asked to help out some friends in a band, to fill in a temporary vocal position. After that it just grew on me. Took some singing lessons and learned to become more confident in the spotlights. I am now enjoying myself immensely on stage and off stage, especially putting my soul into writing lyrics and vocal lines together with my brilliant band mates.

Mike: My family, cause we all play an instrument or sing. So, it wasn’t that big of a leap to do more with it. I also did (what is more known worldwide as the Rockschool) the Rockacademy here in Holland, to give me even more tools to work with behind the scenes, to make some sort of career in making music.

Songwriting was not something I picked up, cause I was good at it (I do not consider myself as songwriter), but with all the bands I worked with it seemed at one point that the songs came from one hand primarily.

Only for La-Ventura it has now grown to a certain direction, which for me suits the bill in making new songs. With the clear path we have chosen, music wise, making songs is in this case my cup of tea. Maybe in the future this can change, but for now it is “just” me.

Mick: What’s the one song you wish you could have written and why?

Mike: That is a tough question… There are many examples of songs which are seriously gems in the genres. Because I do not consider myself in any of their leagues, picking one would almost be blasphemy 😉 What I will say is this: we all need to be grateful that in all matters in life there have been pioneers, opening up possibilities for others. I hope maybe one day, I can contribute in one of these matters in my own way.

Mick: What are your favorite things outside of music?

Carla: It is my nature to be creative, therefore I really enjoy spending my spear time on creative activities. Even my work holds a great deal of creativity, as being a hairstylist. It is also the social aspect that I like about the job: the interaction with people. I am also the one responsible for the band promotion on the social media and I really enjoy to connect with our fans and friends on FB.

Mike: MOVIES!!! I seriously enjoy movies, which is almost the only thing that can make me think about something else for the running time, instead of problems or other matters of work, the band and daily life.

Cause I am doing also the management for the band, I am faced with many many logistic problems and ways that would really make you hate music. When I am watching a movie, my brain can finally relax a bit. I just saw Batman vs Superman in the cinema, with a running time of about 150 minutes: this means 150 minutes of just pure MY time ;)!

Mick: To end with, what is the hardest thing that you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

Mike: For me the death of my youngest sister, which made a lasting impression on my whole family, where many before the accident would never thought life would unfold how it did after the accident. For me the music was one of the main things that kept me going and made the pain go away. I was not blind to what was happening at the time, so I experienced it with both eyes open, but with my escapes in the music, many things on the background got a place and were solved without too much anger or pain.

When life throws you such a curve ball, you either are strong to cope with it in your own way and/ or you have such fantastic people around you that will keep you going.

For me the music was one of those things that really meant a lot, even without knowing it at that time, which kept me solid and true to myself without losing my mind in despair.

I will never forgot what happened, but it all got a good place, when either listening or playing music. Life is too short to just dwell on things, make the best of it, cause you only get one life/ one chance. LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST!

Interview & Words by Mick Birchall

Liv Kristine: “I’d love to further cooperate with Simone”

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , , , on 9th January 2016 by Nico Davidson

Nico interviewed Liv Kristine, the charismatic and Valkyrie-like frontwoman of Leaves’ Eyes in Sheffield on their UK tour, in support of the new album King of Kings.

Nico: Hi Liv, how are you?

Liv: Very good, how are you?

N: I’m great, thanks.

L: Good to see you again.

N: Good to see you too. How has the tour gone so far?

L: Really really well. We’re on the UK leg of the tour now and we have one third of the tour still to play. That’s going to be for the UK only. The first leg was for the rest of Europe which was really nice too. Paris: awesome, Belgium: awesome. But the UK is always something special, we have a very big and strong fan base here. We have fans and friends who follow us for every gig and that’s a privilege. I see that the market for our kind of music is growing here, and that’s maybe not the case in Germany. So it’s very good to be back, we’ve already played three gigs and it has been absolutely fantastic.

N: You’ve released a new album recently: King of Kings – which you’ve based on Harald Fairhair. Obviously Scandinavian history, old Norse history in general, is full of fascinating characters like Eirik Bloodaxe.

L: That’s one of Harald’s sons. You’ll find him in the first or second bonus track, it’s called Trail of Blood. That’s a song about him. So who knows what the next Leaves’ Eyes album is going to be about. We know that Harald had many sons and daughters.

N: There are so many other characters like Erik the Red or Leif Erikson. What is it about Harald Fairhair that stood out from the rest of all these great characters and infamous villains? What made you want to do an album based on his life and his legacy?

L: Because I grew up with the legacy of Harald Fairhair. The decisive battle that made him become the king of Norway took place in a fjord called Hafrsfjord, which is my birthplace. So Harald Fairhair has always been there. I’ve always been interested in history and it happened exactly two years ago, over a morning cup of coffee that Alex came up with this idea: what about king of kings? I started digging through all my books and I contacted my mother in Norway to collect stuff at museums and libraries. So it has been amazing to study Harald Fairhair’s life and to divide it into twelve chapters. Parallel to my studies, Alex and Thorsten composed songs at the studio. We’ve been very busy, it has been a very intense process but highly creative. We had so much fun and it means a lot to me to have this album released. It’s definitely a milestone in the career of Leaves’ Eyes. And as I said, it happened at my birthplace so.

N: I highly praised the album for Valkyrian Music..

L: Thank you very much! I read it, of course.

N:Good! Obviously it’s brilliant to see that you guys got back to how you originally started with tales of Viking warriors, going forth into battle, exploring lands and so on. How would you say that King of Kings compares to the rest of the Leaves’ Eyes discography?

L: I’d say King of Kings has a connection to The Vinland Saga, which was thematically about Leif Erikson and his discovery of America. So if there is a link to any other album, I’d say The Vinland Saga. You already mentioned the folky instruments and the folky touch and the orchestra and everything so it has been there all the time but every album has been different. Now King of Kings happened, it was great to see how everything came together. We worked on every song as if it were one individual piece of music. We added any instrument from London Voices to White Russian Orchestra, cello, flutes…everything. We worked on every song until all three of us, Thorsten, Alex and I being perfectionists, said okay let’s go for the mix, its fine.

N: On this album you added Simone Simons from Epica and Lindy-Fay Hella from Wardruna. What was it like working with those two women on the two tracks that they featured on?

L: Absolutely amazing. Of course I know of the series Vikings and I just thought the music is amazing, the soundtrack is amazing! Who is that girl singing? I found out she’s from Bergen! Through a common friend of mine and of Wardruna, I got Lindy-Fay‘s contacts. I contacted her and she said “of course, I know you and I would really like to work with you”. So I sent her Blazing Waters and we were blown away. A couple of weeks later I flew to Bergen and met Lindy-Fay. I presented her Blazing Waters and she loved it, it was definitely golden. She’s a lovely girl and a great musician.

Simone lives one hour away from us so it was about time to invite her to come to our studio. She’s been at our place before but it has been quite a while. She’s a mother now so she’s busy, but she came by and she listened to the song and…I’d say we are a perfect match. Lovely, lovely to work with her.

N: Obviously Epica and Leaves’ Eyes, despite falling into the symphonic metal genre, have got two completely distinct styles. Do you think there will be any sort of crossover between from the recent collaboration between you and Simone?

L: I don’t know. I have no clue, we’ll see. I love Simone and her work, she’s a lovely girl and we are both mothers… We live one hour away from each other so who knows. I’d love to further cooperate with Simone. It would be great.

N: Going back to Harald Fairhair. You obviously studied his saga, his life story quite extensively for the album. What would you say is the most fascinating aspect about the man?

L: We got a few facts about Harald through Snorri, but Snorri came about a couple of hundred years later. Next to that we got the sagas and the tales of the Norwegian kings, where you can find a lot of interesting written words about them to honor them. I think it is absolutely amazing to read the different approaches to his person, because he must have been exactly as unruly, wild like his son Eirik Bloodaxe. He must have been exactly like that himself. In many of the tales or poems about Harald it is told that he was beautiful and that he could have had any woman: he was very glorious. It’s fascinating to read other stories like the battle of Hafrsfjord; about blood being everywhere and the fjord burning or different sceneries, a different Harald.

N: He certainly sounds like an interesting figure. As a fan of both Vikings and Game of Thrones, which one do you prefer?

L: Vikings. Last time it would have been Game of Thrones but it’s Vikings now because of the music. Of course because of my friend Lindy-Fay who’s in there. Although it’s made in Hollywood, I think it’s very nice. It’s very nice to watch those great actors. I love it. And also because I’m Norwegian.

N: That’s very good. Thank you for your time. Have a lovely show tonight.

L: You’re welcome, thank you very much and thanks for coming.

Leaves’ Eyes online:

http://leaveseyes.de 

Interview with Vaarwel of Frozen Ocean

Posted in Interview on 23rd December 2015 by Paul Macmillan

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Somewhere in the cold wilderness of Russia, a man going by the name of Vaarwel has been cultivating a complex musical concoction for the last decade. His is an intriguing blend of many influences, culminating in a unique identity, nesting in the realms of extreme metal. Rather allowing it to become a burden, Vaarwel has channelled his isolation in art unhindered by current tropes, to deliver Frozen Ocean, whose first release with label Apocalyptic Witchcraft, The Prowess Of Dormition, was covered recently at Valkyrian. Intrigued by his strange tale, we dug deeper into the thoughts and processes of the man behind the music, starting with his mild – yet reasoned – rejection of the ‘black metal’ tag.

Vaarwel: “There’s a lot of talk about “blackness” of metal nowadays: holy wars of trve vs hipsters, discussions about experimentation within style, invention of “new” subgenres (like, for fuck’s sake, “transcendental black metal”), et cetera. And I remember that it always was like that. I had been listening to black metal of all possible kinds for some time, and found that I am relatively close to (a) conservative position in this respect. Black metal should be devoted to Satanism/misanthropy/occultism/hatred/ intolerance, or at least to something that is close to one of those subjects, otherwise it is not actually black. Being a bit purist here, Frozen Ocean’s music does not match such a requirement, maybe only “Norse” trilogy (which is an homage) and “And Hoarfrost Blooms Henceforth” could fit, but I don’t insist. So, that’s why I prefer to specify it as vague as “atmospheric metal”. Moreover, style tags are relatively powerful instrument of promotion. Too many people want to jump the train of black metal, because (of) its history and attractive, badass image. I would like to walk my own way, (and) it is evident for me that it doesn’t belong to black metal.”

This is a musician with very solid, if not forceful, opinions on how his creative ouput fits into the world. Still, he seems open to experimentation, such as the use of traditional instrumentation.

Vaarwel: “Well, honestly I don’t very much like both pure folk music and its fusions with something else (folk metal, for example). If one can see an influence, it is perhaps unintentional. On the other hand, folk music melodies, and folk instruments are considered, and will be considered, as a good tool for building the music of Frozen Ocean – as well as such for electronic music.”

It seems like a massive thought process to go through for just one person, and you have to wonder if it is as demanding as it appears. Does he find that this is a struggle?

Vaarwel: “It is hard to say, because one can scarcely see a challenge here. Somebody is satisfied with raw, and what is offensively called “bedroom” sound, and if this fits the goal – why not? Some just make music with dense studio, or studio-like sound, because it seems necessary – again, why not? I doubt that there is somebody who intentionally accepts the challenge to make the music alone, but make it sound like the whole band. Yes, I would like to manage the sound of Frozen Ocean releases as good as possible, but this is not a competition.”

…but what comes first? Where does it begin?

Vaarwel: “Like gangrene, from scratch. It is always the music. I guess that’s why Frozen Ocean has so many instrumental compositions recorded. I fully record the music of a new track, and only then write the lyrics. As a musician, it is vital for me to describe necessary emotions, images and visions by means of music, and lyrics should be just assistance, and nothing more. Otherwise, one can just declaim the lyrics as poem, with minimum accompaniment (and so we get dark folk!)”

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With Frozen Ocean’s music being fairly open to variety, within its own world, past releases have seen more loose, jangly atmospherics. Does he see a return to the likes of the tripped-out style of Space Orchards?

Vaarwel: “I do. Although I consider post rock generally a stillborn style, with several lodestars and hordes of copycats, it can surely bring some useful tools and approaches to new music from Frozen Ocean.”

Are there any other musical genres he might try with Frozen Ocean, which he hasn’t used before?

Vaarwel: “You will never know, neither will I. For now, I have an unfinished IDM album with elements of folk music and metal; death metal always attracts me, being a music that I generally listen to. Everything that can be integrated, and give advance to Frozen Ocean’s artistry can be used. Speaking of what will never be used, there are Russian chanson (pop music about prison culture), hip-hop and club electronics such as bigroom, house of all kinds, etc.”

Russian chanson is new one to me! Then again, Moscow, and Russia in general, isn’t a place that people in the west hear much about in terms of metal, but it is massive. How has the metal scene over there treated him? Is Frozen Ocean well received at home?

Vaarwel: “Frozen Ocean is unclaimed and unknown in Russia. I seem to have twenty, maybe thirty Russian listeners that are not friends of mine or familiar with me. I am happy that these people found Frozen Ocean and appreciated its music legacy. Speaking of the scene, it is well-developed and indeed has some good music acts, bands and projects. I know, personally, some people, and I am in good relationships with them, but Frozen Ocean still remains obscure and unclaimed, even for the scene. I can do nothing with that, and will not do, thus turning my expectations towards Western audiences.”

So, can we expect to see a live incarnation of Frozen Ocean coming our way any time soon?

Vaarwel: “I did consider it several times, but I am not a big fan of live music, both listening and playing. Besides, making a gig makes sense when you are sure that somebody will visit it, and I am not sure. Maybe in next decade.”

If not live, then does he have plans for future releases already in place?

Vaarwel: “I do, as always, and plans are totally beyond the possibilities. Now I am recording the next Frozen Ocean full-length named “There Will Come Soft Rains”, named after Sarah Tisdale’s poem, which was used by Ray Bradbury in his famous short novel. It will be another recording of atmospheric metal, similar to material on “The Prowess Of Dormition”, but faster, better and more emotional.”

by Paul Macmillan

Interview with Mike LePond

Posted in Interview with tags , , on 18th November 2015 by izaforestspirit

Mike LePond, the legendary bass player of Symphony X released his first solo album ‘Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins‘ last year. Iza caught up with him to discuss the new project and his passion for epic tales and heavy metal.

Iza: Hi Mike. Could you tell me a bit more about your new solo album Mike LePond’s Silent Assasins? What’s the concept behind it?

Mike: There is no specific concept behind the album but every song has its own individual concept.

Iza: Who are the “silent assassins” and what is their purpose?

Mike: In this band the Silent Assassins have 2 meanings. In the actual title track, they are the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan horse. They are also meant to signify the guys I hired to play on the record.

 

Iza: This album has been described as a tribute to classic heavy metal, combining”all influences” of your favorite bands. Which bands have influenced you the most during the writing process and why?

Mike: For this particular CD, the bands that most influenced my writing were Judas Priest, Manowar, Metallica and Blackmore’s Night. I have so many more influences but these bands always dominate my writing.

Iza: You’re a busy man. In addition to this project and Symphony X, you’re also a member of several other bands including Waken Eyes, Elegacy and many more. How do you find the time for all of these? Have you encountered any problems or restrictions as a result of being involved in so many projects?

Mike: Yes it’s a tremendous amount of work but it’s a labor of love so I can always figure out a way to get these projects done. I have never run into problems in this area.

Iza: The line-up includes Alan Tecchio (Hades, Watchtower, Seven Witches) as the lead vocalist. What lead you to decide to work with him?

Mike: I met Alan in 2010 when we played together in a band called 7 Witches. His voice had so much power and yet he could sing very well. It was exactly what I was looking for.

Iza: One thing that occurred to me when I read some of the lyrics is that a lot of the themes are similar to those of Symphony X. For example there’s several references to mythology, especially Greek and Norse myths. Which came first, the lyrics or the music? Also, what made you choose these stories in particular?

Mike: I love history, mythology and literature and I believe these epic tales go perfect with heavy metal. I had a bunch of lyrics and also some musical pieces laying around. Basically I just matched the musical piece that fit the emotion of the lyric.

Iza: There’s been some discussion as to which genre Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins falls into. The album features elements of classic heavy metal, thrash metal and power metal. How would you describe this style?

Mike: I would just call this album heavy metal. It certainly does have traditional, thrash, Celtic, and doom in there.

Iza: Are you planning to go on tour with Silent Assassins or is this going to be a studio only project?

Mike: My goal is to do some high profile shows with this project. I am trying to coordinate that with Symphony X’s 2016 tour schedule

Iza: Do you have any plans for the future of Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins?

Mike: I have already begun working on a second album. I want this to be a real working band.

Iza: Is there anything else that you would like to say to your fans and our readers?

Mike: I would like to say thank you to all The Symphony X and Silent Assassins fans out there. I appreciate your loyalty and support. I will see you all on tour soon!

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Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins album is out now via Moonlight Productions.

https://www.facebook.com/mikelepondssilentassassins

 

Interview with My Own Sorrow

Posted in Interview with tags , on 11th November 2015 by izaforestspirit

My Own Sorrow is a relatively new dark electro artist from Sweden. His second album ‘Infernal Odyssey’ was released a few months ago. Iza caught up with the guy behind the project, Patrik, to discuss the occult, horror films and industrial music.

Iza: Hi Patrik! Could you tell me a little bit more about My Own Sorrow for those who haven’t heard your music before? How did you come up with the name?

Patrik: My Own Sorrow is a Swedish dark clad electronic solo act that formed in late 2013. I am Sorrow and also a sanguine demonic entity. Originally the music had a focus of slow cinematic darkwave with female vocalists but due to a lack of interest I took the role as vocalist.

The name is inspired by 19th century love for melancholy and horror authors such as Edgar Allan Poe or HP Lovecraft.

Iza: You have listed the occult as one of the inspirations for your music, what role does the occult play in your life and is this something that you believe in and practice?

Patrik: I have a wide range of spiritual beliefs including Tibetan Buddhism, necromancy, shamanism and demonology. I combine these with practice in obscure long forgotten rituals.

Iza: Horror is another key theme in your music. Based on some of the song titles such as ‘Crawling Chaos (Nyarlahotep)’, I’m guessing that you’re a H.P. Lovecraft fan. Which one of his stories is your favorite and why?

Patrik: A hard question but I find everything surrounding the mythos of the Necronomicon which Lovecraft created intriguing as it creates an urban legend of its existence.

Iza: Continuing with the horror themes, I’ve noticed some references to movies such as The Mist and Carnival of Souls in your songs. Are there any other films or TV shows which have inspired you? If so, which ones?

Patrik: I love old horror movies featuring Bela Lugosi and such classic actors but I am also a huge fan of horror in general. I say that I prefer mysterious movies such as the works of David Lynch but a good splatter zombie movie can also be very entertaining.

Iza: Most of your music, is available for download in mp3 format via your Bandcamp page and other sites but I struggled to find any physical releases? Have you considered releasing one of albums on CD in the future or are you going to stick to the digital formats?

Patrik:  I have had the idea of creating a very limited edition CD but due to a lack of funds and currently poor CD sales in general they may never be made. Digital releases and most importantly streaming has become the future.

Iza: I have a limited knowledge of the Swedish industrial and electro scene. Apart from My Own Sorrow, the only other Swedish electro band I’ve heard of is Telemark. Can you tell me a little bit about the scene in Sweden (e.g. other bands, events etc.)?

Patrik:  There are many alternative acts in Sweden but very few promoters and also they are often limited to synthpop, postpunk or old school EBM and not allowing much in the way of new sounds..

Iza: Your music is very atmospheric and eerie. The creepy atmosphere and use of samples, reminds me a little of bands like X-Fusion and Unter Null. What are your thoughts on those artists or are there any other industrial bands who you see as an inspiration for your music?

Patrik: Inspirations for my music include God Module and acts such as Suicide Commando. Unter Null and such acts are a minor influence but I often play their music when I DJ. I also draw inspiration from Sopor Aeternus and soundtracks such as the ones in Silent Hill.

Iza: There’s an ongoing debate about how industrial music is becoming too club-friendly; more like the mainstream styles such as techno or trance and that the “industrial” element is no longer there. What are your thoughts on this?

Patrik: Music must evolve but it is a fine line. It must have distinct, alternative elements of darkness or else it loses its original purpose and just falls into something mainstream or pop like.

Iza: You are a solo artist playing electronic music, does this pose any difficulties or restrictions for you when you do a live show? If you had the resources, is there anything that you would like to incorporate into your live shows such as dancers, guest musicians or props?

Patrik: It can be an incredible freedom and it allows me to follow the given vision. I want all live shows to have visual elements as it is an important part of creating an eerie atmosphere. It would be great to have guest female vocalists, cultists on stage or more props. Perhaps even a guest guitarist for such sections.

Iza: Some of more renowned industrial bands such as Combichrist and Celldweller, have contributed their music to film and video game soundtracks. Is this something that you would be interested in given the opportunity?

Patrik: It would be a dream to be able to contribute or create music for any horror movie or video game.

Iza: What’s the next step for My Own Sorrow? Any plans for the future?

Patrik: I plan on releasing a new album or an EP in 2016 and I am currently working on dozens of tracks. I also plan on following this up with more shows and perhaps a mini tour.

Iza: Do you have anything else that you would like to say to your fans and our readers?

Patrik: Open your hearts open your minds be creative follow your Dreams.

For more information about My Own Sorrow check out:

https://www.facebook.com/myownsorrowband/

https://myownsorrow.bandcamp.com/

http://www.vampirefreaks.com/myownsorrow

 

Interview with Huntress-Jill Janus

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , on 22nd October 2015 by mickbirchy

Huntress recently dropped their new album “Static” and Mick Birchall had a few questions for the vocalist, Jill Janus. Read on as they discuss the new album and production process, heavy metal fans and women in heavy metal.

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Mick: With the release of your new album “Static”, what do you think sets this apart from the previous Huntress albums?
Jill: Static is the heaviest and catchiest Huntress album, it’s also the most personal, lyrically.

Mick: Could you tell us a bit about the production and creative process of “Static”?
Jill: I wanted to write and record one album a year for the first three years since signing with Napalm Records. We keep getting amazing tour opportunities, and this can be difficult with scheduling. We chose to record the album between touring with Arch Enemy and Amon Amarth, and we chose producers Paul Fig and Jim Rota because we wanted a more accessible sound.

Mick: Why was “Flesh” chosen as the single to advertise the album?  Personally I felt that “Noble Savage” was the more effective song on the album.
Jill: “Flesh” was chosen as the first single by every band member, our producers, manager and record label. Everyone agreed this was the first single. It really represents Huntress with dark imagery and sexually driven lyrics. I love “Noble Savage” yet feel “Flesh” makes more sense as a single.

Mick: What do you enjoy most about writing songs?
Jill: It’s cathartic and healing for me. Writing music keeps me out of trouble!

Mick: Why do you think the Huntress fan base, or heavy metal fans in general, are so loyal?
Jill: Heavy metal fans are loyal because we all possess a sadness and darkness that average human beings can’t comprehend. Together we aren’t so lonely.

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Mick: What do you feel is the biggest difference between American/Canadian audiences and the crowds in the UK and Europe?
Jill: Not much is different. I find that people who love metal are very much alike.

Mick: What is your opinion on the rise of women in heavy metal, and not just as vocalists?
Jill: Most women aren’t brutal and they just don’t belong in metal. Many women take the easy route by wearing corsets and singing “easy listening metal” in symphonic metal bands. I’m not a fan of female fronted bands and I feel embarrassed to be a woman in metal sometimes. I do self-loath and I can be very annoying. I understand that women can change the perception of heavy metal, but telling us to stop will only make us want to destroy your world more. That’s the nature of a woman. Just ignore us, you’ll have more luck.

Mick: Do you enjoy any music outside of heavy metal?
Jill: I love ABBA!!!

Mick: What do you personally enjoy outside of playing music and touring, during your downtime?
Jill: Nature and animals bring me so much joy. I like make crystal jewellery on long drives in the tour van. But I really don’t have downtime. Huntress takes all my focus.

Mick: Finally, what is the hardest thing personally you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Jill: I recently had a hysterectomy to remove cancer from my uterus, I’m still recovering from surgery but I’m now cancer-free. That was brutal. Probably the hardest thing I’ve overcome.
Mick: We at Valkyrian wish you a fast and 100% recovery! Thanks for your time and keep it up!

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http://huntresskills.com/

Interview with Through The Cracks

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , , on 30th September 2015 by Pieni

Just a little more than a year has passed but a lot has changed in Through The Cracks since I’ve last talked to founder Jimmy Bergman about it (read here); a new interview was in order. I amended that on the day the band played their first show (report here), catching up with them before soundcheck. It was a sunny afternoon in Gothenburg, so we had our interview outside, near the canal that runs close-by Sticky Fingers.

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Renata: hello boys and girl. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me on such an important day for you. When I interviewed Jimmy last year, Through The Cracks had a whole different line-up, so I’d like to start there. Sara, how did you join the band?

Sara Lindberg: Well, I knew Niklas (Aggemyr, bass) from before. He recorded me with my old glam rock band, Lazy Lizard, when I was just 16 years old. Then on Facebook he wrote me a couple of times “oh, come down and try out for my band”. But I was skeptic at first. I didn’t like what they were doing at the time, the song that he sent me, so I was always coming up with excuses like “I don’t know if I have the time”(laughs) But I ended up going to the studio and it was great fun. Especially because they said I could make changes, write new lyrics and new melodies, so it turned out a really good match.

Renata: I guess that’s an automatic “no” to my question regarding hearing the first two singles (“Breathless” and “Marionette”) with your voice…

Sara: Exactly! We’re not playing those songs!

Renata: I also read on Jimmy’s blog that you wanted to go heavier. How heavier?

Jimmy Bergman: Death metal! (everybody laughs)

Sara: A little bit more… progressive. I really like Alter Bridge because I love the way Myles Kennedy sings, with a lot of heart, a lot of soul… it’s beautiful! And the riffs and the music are heavy and still groovy… I think they’re more advanced than some of the other bands. And that’s the direction I want us to go. I want our music to touch people.

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Renata: Niklas, your turn: how did you go from producer to bass player? Do you even know how to play (laughs)?

Niklas: Yes, I promise! You’ll see it tonight. I’ve actually played bass for some 20 years now. I think it was when we recorded “Marionette” in my studio that Jimmy asked me to join the band. I thought “yeah, what the hell”.

Jimmy: But it was when he toured with The End Of Grace (Jimmy’s other band – Niklas replaed bass player Johan Hagman while the latter was on paternity leave) that I thought of it. That tour was his trial by fire. (grins)

Renata: And since we’re talking about TEoG… Andreas, how did you ended up replacing Daniel (Holmgren, currently studying in U.S.A.)? You actually like it or you’re just giving a helping hand to your band mate Jimmy?

Andreas Hagman: Well, to be honest… this sucks. (everybody laughs) No, it was Sara who came to me at a gig and said they needed a stand-in drummer. I don’t know if they were desperate or if she wanted me…

Sara, interrupting: No! I really thought Andreas was good.

Andreas: So she asked me if I wanted to join the band, I said I’d think about it… But then I heard the demos she sent me and I really liked it. I think this band is stepping up their game and can go far, so even just as a stand-in member, I’m stoked.

Renata: Well, you’re in the promo shots, so…

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Sara: Yeah, he’s part of the band! (Note: meanwhile, it seems that Daniel isn’t coming back and Andreas was made full-time member of Through The Cracks).

Renata: And how’s the songwriting process? Everybody’s involved or Jimmy’s the big boss?

Niklas: The thing is that Jimmy works like two hours a day… (everybody laughs) No, I’m joking, but he has more free time than the rest of us and so he sits down and works on the songs. But that’s cool ‘cause he has great ideas and records many great songs. Then he sends them to the rest of us and we let Sara take on the lyrics and the melodies, but we all add a little something to the process, we all have a saying in it.

Sara: Jimmy isn’t a dictator. (grins)

Renata: And how do you write the lyrics, Sara? You think of a theme you want to approach and you adapt it to the song, or it’s the song that inspires the lyrics?

Sara: The latter. When Jimmy sends his stuff over, I try to figure out some fitting lyrics to that melody, to that vibe. If it’s a sad song it’s got sad lyrics, if it’s an angry song, I’ll write about something that makes me mad…

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Jimmy (joking): She writes angry songs about meatballs. (everybody laughs)

Sara: I write songs about Jimmy being a dork. (grins) But my dad actually said to my mom that if “Mother” was about her, then “Hateful Things” had to be about him. (laughs) But he was joking.

Renata: And favorite songs? Which is your favorite?

Sara, Jimmy and Andreas: “Soulless Man”!

Niklas: Yeah, the new song is good, but my favorite is “Learn To Run”.

Sara: That’s because you sing on it!

Niklas: No, it’s not because of that! I really think that that song has something more than the others, much more spirit in it.

Sara: Well, one of the reasons I prefer “Soulless Man” it’s because it’s challenging to sing it. It’s not hard but it gives me the chance to show a side of my voice that I really like to use, that it’s fun to use.

Renata: And when will we be able to hear this new song?

Niklas: Well, you’re going to hear it tonight (grins). We’ll release it as a single this autumn. Then after the New Year we should return to the studio. We haven’t decided yet if it’s going to be an EP or a full album; we’ll see how many songs we come up with. But we’ll be working on it and we’ll be posting updates on Facebook, so stay tuned.

Renata: Jimmy, Through The Cracks is your baby. When you started it out a little over a year ago, did you think this is where you’d be today?

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Niklas: Did you think you’d have me in your band? (everybody laughs)

Jimmy: No, to be honest no. Through The Cracks started as a ballad project, with lots of string arrangements. But I like heavier songs and I think that now we have a great mix of both, so we’re going in the right direction. Our new song, for instance. “Soulless Man” is groovy, has more riffing and not so many back tracks. That’s what I want for Through The Cracks now.

Renata: And expectations for tonight?

Jimmy (quoting The End Of Grace): World domination! (everybody laughs)

Sara: That nobody fucks up. And that there will be a lot of people coming to see us. This is my first gig outside of Stockholm so I’m a bit nervous but also excited for having new faces seeing me. I hope they see us and think “look at them, what a cool band!”. I hope they’ll like us.

Renata: I’m sure they will. Thanks again for this little chat and see you in a couple of hours, on stage!

Through The Cracks: Thanks for your support!

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www.facebook.com/ThroughTheCracksBand

Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Ugly Noises in Glasgow – Flotsam & Jetsam interview

Posted in Interview with tags , , , on 31st May 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Flotsam & Jetsam - Live at Stereo, Glasgow, UK 20/05/2015

On May 20th, 2015, a crew of die-hard, Scottish thrashers headed out to stereo to do something many thought they would never do on home soil: witness a live performance by Arizonan metal lifers Flotsam And Jetsam. I was barely in school the last time they played up here, and casting a glance around the motley assemblage in attendance, it seems a pretty safe bet that the same applies to most of them. Needless to say, there’s a fair old buzz in the air.

Currently touring Europe in continuing support of 2012’s Ugly Noise album – their 11th over four decades – they have already taken on Greece and are now getting ready to tear Glasgow a new one, on the third date of three UK shows. Vocalist and founding member Eric ‘AK’ Knutson spills forth about how the road has been treating them and the future of F&J. With two countries under their belt, what’s the story so far?

Eric: I’m just out here, pushing away at it. So far it’s really good, y’know, we did four shows in Greece – the people are crazy. It’s constant, the minute the intro tape starts, the stage diving started, and they didn’t stop until we were out of the building. So, the Greek people are crazy, but promoters suck, and venues suck… They ripped us off some money, same old story. England’s been really great so far. Of course we haven’t played here in 30 years. Bloodstock was the last time we played, but before that, it was 1987 or something when we played.

In truth, F&J really seem to be putting in the effort to get around and see people in places they haven’t been for a while. What spurred them to put that into high gear?

Eric: I had a completely different line-up as the band, and it really wasn’t going anywhere. We were out here kind of getting a free vacation, but we weren’t really pushing the band, you know, we were just out here messing around. So, I decided to get some the original members back together and actually make a serious stab at it, bringing the band back to the public.

Right enough, when you’re talking about recorded input, when they did Ugly Noise it was with the exact same line-up which recorded Cuatro, Drift and High, re-united. Comparing the slightly ‘prog’ leanings of both Drift and Ugly Noise, one has to wonder if that was a conscious attempt to recapture that sound.

Eric: Not necessarily that, the sound of those records, but at least the writing style of that line-up. Mike Gilbert, you know, I’ve always loved his song-writing. This new record we’re working on right now is going to be really crazy, because we’ve got a bunch of different song writers on it.

Eric AK Knutson

It’s no big surprise that F&J are writing and planning a new long player while out on the road; they’ve followed a consistent release regimen throughout their entire career, unleashing a new album every few years. What they would like to do in the future may just, however, raise a few eyebrows, and get some juices flowing.

Eric: We’re going to try one every year from now on. We’re going to try to. It is hard work, but studio work is what we love doing more than anything, second to touring, and it doesn’t bother us to put one, two albums out a year, if we could.

As Eric mentions, there is quite a variety of contributors for this next platter, including bassist Michael Spencer, previously with F&J just before the creating the classic No Place For Disgrace.

Eric: It has an influence on the writing. He’s written some songs for the new record, we took some songs that he wrote for ‘No Place…’, that didn’t make it to the record, and we’re revamping those and putting them on the new record, so, yeah, it definitely has different influence, a little more old-school influence for us to have Michael Spencer back.

Going in the other direction, they’ve drafted the drum skills of Shadows Fall’s Jason Pittman, the replace other founding member, Kelly Smith, due to family priorities in his life.

Eric: It’s definitely making our songs a little more energetic. We have places where Kelly would have done, y’know, a single kick type of background, he’s doing four times that on the kick drum, so it’s definitely given us a lot more energy.

And as for the title for this monsterpiece?

Eric: We’re battling with that really hard right now. There are some songs which sound like they should have been on No Place, there’s some songs that sound like they should have been on Drift, there’s some songs that sound like they should have been on Ugly Noise. When you put all those together, we’re really battling as to what to call it, what direction the title should go.

Unlike Dreams Of Death, which had a pretty solid reason for the album title.

Eric: Yes, and every song on that record is basically part of one big story. That one was really easy to name. I’ve always written about stuff that’s ‘death and gore in your sleep’, types of stuff. When I was younger I had a lot of nightmares, for who knows what reasons, now they’re coming back up in lyrics. Which is a good thing I think.

From a band which has been on the go for over thirty years, it is really quite refreshing to see such enthusiasm and motivation; increased touring schedules and multiple, rapid-fire releases on the cards seem more likely for those at the beginning of their career, with the fire of youth behind them.

However, time served is quite the commodity these days, and the passion of fans, both old and new, for classic listening material, seems something that F&J are aware of, and could be the very fuel in the machine which keeps it powering along.

Eric: The way I look at it, we have three different eras of Flotsam. The first three records, the next three after that, and then the last few that we’ve done, are different eras of music I think, and this next record’s going to have all of that on it. I think it’s going to please every phase of Flotsam fan that there is. Yeah, we might end up just self-titling it, I’m not sure…

Interview by Paul Macmillan.

Doom Over Edinburgh – Doom, the whole doom, and nothing but the doom

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , on 28th April 2015 by Paul Macmillan

This article is the third in a series of interviews with organisers of underground metal festivals in Scotland, previously covering one of the longest running (BOBSTOCK – Bobfest 10), and one of the newest (Sonic Mass). This time around, we’re zeroing in on one of the most niche metal events to be launched in recent times, Doom Over Edinburgh.

If you couldn’t guess by the title, D.O.E. is dedicated in its entirety to the genre of doom, and doom alone! If you’ve been following the other articles, you’ll notice a recurring theme when it’s mentioned that D.O.E. was put together by yet another musician, Miguel Santos. We grabbed a few precious moments with the mastermind of not only Edinburgh based doom metallers, A Dream Of Poe, but also this new yearly event.

Miguel Santos

Valkyrian Music: Hi Miguel! How is life in the wake of the very first Doom Over Edinburgh?

Miguel Santos: Still recovering from a cold but not too bad. Yourself?

VM: Not bad at all! Are you fit talk about Doom Over Edinburgh?

MS: Yeah, absolutely

VM: Brilliant! Well, first of all, it’s a very defined genre. What made you choose doom specifically?

MS: Well, basically, that’s the kind of music that I identify myself with the most. I have been around, playing in doom metal bands since 2003, and since then, and especially since I started to promote events (2007), I always wanted to do a festival with just doom metal bands. That was impossible in the Azores (where I come from), as people are not that keen on doom metal, so as soon as I moved to edinburgh and started to know the scene here a bit more, it was just a matter of time before going for it

VM: One might suspect that such a narrow bracket would restrict turn-out, but what were the numbers like in the end?

MS: Well, it does restrict it a bit. I made a loss on this first edition, and I can’t deny that I was expecting to have more people attending the festival, but it was a loss that still allowed me to look in a positive way at the next edition. We had the cancellation from Solstice, and due to that I had to do some refunds, so that had an impact on the final number. But I believe the doom scene is great. People that like it will travel miles to come to the events. As an example, I had a german couple who flew from Frankfurt to come to the festival! That’s dedication to doom!

VM: That’s pretty cool! Do you think niche genre fests can hold their own with events on a similar scale which appeal to a wider audience?

MS: Of course, on a festival that appeals to not only doom but black, death, thrash and so on, the likeliness of having more people attending is huge when compared to a doom only festival. There are lots of doom only events all over the world, and they are all doing great!

VM: It would be good to see another similar UK event stand shoulder to shoulder with some of them.

MS: Doom Over London, for me, is one of the most important Doom festivals we have in Europe, so yeah, we can indeed get shoulder to shoulder with them. Although, it’s still much easier and cheaper for a promoter in Germany or The Netherlands to put a killer Doom Festival on, as most bands will be able to travel by van instead of having to pay for flights as happens here in the UK

VM: Talking of such things, a lot of new festival type events tend to book some pretty big name headliners. With the first D.O.E., you went for The Prophecy, who, although they have a substantial career behind them, aren’t hugely well known. Can you tell us a bit about that decision process?

MS: The decision process is relatively simple. First of all, I try to book the bands that I like and would like to see live. Then I take into account how much it would cost me, and if the band can generate enough interest here in Scotland to cover the costs.

VM: Personal taste seems to be quite important

MS: Yes absolutely, but then I do like doom as I said, so I kind of like most bands within the genre. I have my preferences, though, but I never rule out others opinions. That’s why last year I asked for suggestions from the public. I mean, at the end of the day, I need to please as many people as I can to try to cover all the costs.

VM: What makes you think ‘I really have to have THAT band?

MS: Well, put like that, I would say personal taste, really, but that’s way before sitting down and thinking about the costs. The Prophecy, for example, are one of my favorite bands! I was trying to get them to play in the Azores, but then the costs of that combined with the  very, very small amount of people who like doom made that impossible. But then, here in Edinburgh, it was a different case, as it would be much easier and cheaper to have them on the bill.

VM: New all-dayers and mini-fests seem to pop up all over the place at the drop of a hat these days. D.O.E. seemed to be getting announcements and promotion out years ago! How important was this extensive lead-up to planning the show successfully?

MS: I always like to do things in advance. It gives me time to plan things ahead and be on top of everything. If something happens, I have more than enough time to react and prepare a solution. Also by starting early – I mean, a week after the end of the first edition I announced the first band for 2016 –  it allows me to build up the interest and reach as many people as possible, so that way I maximize the chances of having a full house, and in that case cover all the costs.

VM: With the second D.O.E. already announced, are you at all concerned that you won’t have the same amount of preparation time?

MS: Well, I’m actually having more time to prepare this time. I started the last year’s edition promotion in July, I believe; this year I started in March, so it pretty much gives me 1 year to get everything ready to doom!

VM: Really? It seemed like so much longer the first time! I apologise.

MS: No worries at all! It did seem a long time indeed. I do hate waiting, but that’s a necessary good I believe.

VM: Maybe it’s just the magic of doom?

MS: Indeed it is! And good things come to those who wait.

Doom Over Edinburgh

VM: Are you hoping to develop the event into a bigger and better version, or is it more or less where you want it to be?

MS: I can’t deny that I want it to grow more, and become bigger and better. I do want to provide a better experience for the bands and the audience, but I’m happy where I stand now. There’s lots of room for improvement, and I’m working on that.

Anyway, there’s just so much you can do. I have to take into consideration the amount of local people interested in attending a festival like Doom Over Edinburgh. So, the thing here is trying to promote it every year the best I can, get the word out so we can get to a point to have more people attending it – people from all over the UK and from mainland Europe as well. But anyway, in my opinion, 2016 is shaping up to be a great one, and an improvement of the 2015 edition.

VM: I think that’s a good place to finish. Thank you very much for your time, Miguel, but before you go, there’s one more question, which is fast becoming a tradition for the end of these interviews: Do you have any closing advice for those thinking of taking on a similar event?

MS: That was my pleasure, thanks very much for the opportunity! My advice would be, know your audience and listen to them, do your homework, and work at trying to be as cost efficient as you can. Be prepared to make a loss, as it can happen, but don’t give up! And don’t trust Facebook that much!

Doom Over Edinburgh II is set to take place on March 11 2016 at Bannermans Bar, Edinburgh.

By Paul Macmillan

Edinburgh’s Sonic Mass: stoner, psych, doom, sludge and more

Posted in Interview with tags , , , on 23rd March 2015 by Paul Macmillan

In the last Scottish fest interview, we looked at BOB Fest, one of the country’s longest running events of its type. This time around, the focus is on a brand new show, Sonic Mass, organised by Edinburgh based Pisschrist Promotions, and entertainment website Echoes And Dust. Pisschrist have continuously hosted some great up and coming names in their relatively short existence, including Karma To Burn, White Wizard, and Jex Thoth. Sonic Mass sees them up the game, with a double-figure bill.

Again, this is a project (jointly) managed by a musician, with Pisschrist owner, Ewen Cameron, laying down the low-end in Cthulhu worshipping doom troupe Atragon. Cornered and nursing a hangover, he was kind enough to mumble some responses to what I’m sure was some very welcome pestering.

Ewen Cameron

Valkyrian Music: Hey Ewen, how are you this fine evening?

Ewen Cameron: Hungover, tired and suffering from pretty bad tinnitus.

VM: What were up to to cause such a bangover?

EC: I’ve just finished a run of four days of shows, three of which I was promoting.

VM: Ouch! Well, I’m going to pick what’s left of your brain about your new Sonic Mass event. Can you give us a brief description of what it is?

EC: Sure, it is a weekender dedicated to all things space rock, prog, doom or sludgy. It is the brainchild of myself and Sander, the editor of the website Echoes and Dust.

VM: Why a stoner-prog-space rock theme?

EC: There’s a number of festivals in the country dedicated to doom and stoner stuff, and a lot dedicated to the more psychedelic end of things. We felt there was room for something more eclectic. We didn’t set out with a strict list of genres we wanted to target, we just knew the vibe the event should have, and went from there. There’s a focus on the experimental, the weird, the psychedelic. Don’t expect us to book anything too clichéd or run of the mill!

VM: You’ve been part of building that scene for a while now, right?

EC: I’ve been promoting for about 3 years now. There was a lack of heavy gigs in Edinburgh, as a few great promoters all called it a day around the same time.

VM: That’s some good timing!

EC: It wasn’t so much a case of good timing. More of a case of “If I don’t, who will?

VM: Strangely enough though, some people think the small festival market in the UK has reached saturation point. Do you think there is room for more events like this?

EC: I’d certainly agree that the music scene in Scotland at the moment is healthy. Possibly too healthy. It has reached the point where people cannot afford to attend all the shows they would like to. Even a small festival is a big ask for your average punter. Not everyone works Monday to Friday, and two days of loud music / drinking isn’t great for the body or the wallet. I see the future of these events being more niche-focussed, and designed to bring in crowds from further afield, rather than the current, local scene approach. Scenes only ever hold a certain number of people, so you limit your maximum attendees. We had a people from Aberdeen, London, Manchester, etc travel to Edinburgh for Sonic Mass.

VM: If you’re talking about niche markets, you must have to be deeply involved in the relevant genre. How important is personal taste in a project like Sonic Mass?

EC: Hugely. The number one requirement for us is that we like the band. I’ve always maintained that rule as promoter. I’ve never put on a show to make money and never will. I put on the bands I want to see and that is it. When it comes to Sonic Mass, Sander and I pick a list of potential bands we both like and fit the vibe of the event. Obviously the local scene is important too and we’d never run it without a good collection of local bands that fit the vibe.

VM: To be honest, it seems better that way. There are too many people putting on shows based on what they think the numbers will be, then wonder why the audience dries up after a year or so.

EC: Definitely. It is impossible to predict every outcome. Some promoters think that a band that brought 50 people last year will bring 75 this year, but that’s rarely the case.

VM: With the first SM done and dusted, and a second one possibly in October, what have you learned, and what would you like to change?

EC: We’ve still to set a date but October seems likely. It will come down to availability of bands. We’ve got some names we know we want to book for it. Ideally we’d like grow the festival to include more acts, probably a second venue involved, earlier starts. The second one is definitely going to be a case of more of the same; we didn’t have too many issues other than the obligatory late running. Totally my fault, but it did mean some attendees missed the end of headliners sets, as they had to leave for trains, buses etc. I’ve been attending gigs in Glasgow for years and missed so many sets due to late finishes, so I feel their pain. That is definitely something we’ll tighten up on for number 2.

Sonic Mass

VM: Are there any bands you’d like to book for SM who seem like a pipe dream at the moment?

EC: Yeah, but if you’d told me last year about some of the bands I’m booking this year, I’d have not believed you, so I’m happy to entertain these thoughts. Ideally for myself, Ufomammut, 40 Watt Sun, Ahab would be my top 3.

VM: So, it pays to dream, then!

EC: Yeah, I started out booking some local bands to play in a 70 capacity venue, with no idea what I was doing. Now I’m putting on bands from the other side of the world that I never expected to see, let alone promote a show for.

VM: Well, that about wraps it up! Thank you for taking the time talk. Before you go, though, I’ll ask you what I asked (BOB Fest organiser) Luke James in the last interview: Do you have any closing advice for those thinking of taking on a similar event?

EC: Book bands you genuinely like, don’t expect to make any money, and lay off the beers until the headliners are on stage each night, if you can.

by Paul Macmillan

Penicuik’s annual BOB Fest is ten years old this summer!

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , on 13th March 2015 by Paul Macmillan

It’s a well-known fact amongst those familiar with the live UK music scene that small festivals and yearly events have come up along with the big boys in recent years. New yearly events spring up all the time. As well as applying to most genres, it also applies to most regions. Scotland is no different, giving fans the option of almost year round metal entertainment, with repeating events which are a little something more than just another gig.
One such event, and one of the longest running north of the border, is BOB Fest. Based in Penicuik, Midlothian, it has been running every year since 2006, operating an open air format when weather permits. Valkyrian music caught up with organiser Luke James – who also plays for Dog Tired and Torn Face – to interrogate him about the projects ins, outs, ups and downs.

Luke James

Valkyrian Music: Hey Luke, how are you doing today?
Luke James: Alright man, doing away

VM: Thanks for taking time to talk about BOB Fest!
LJ: No worries, happy to!

VM: I guess the first and foremost question is ‘Why?’. What made you want to start BOB Fest all those years ago?
LJ: We started putting on our own gigs in Penicuik all those years ago because there was absolutely nothing happening with live music. The first few we put on were a success so we thought we would ramp it up and make the all-dayer, BOB FEST!

VM: We? So you don’t run it alone – there’s a team?
LJ: I run it alone but back in the first BOB we were all total broke. Fresh out of school and no job in sight. The Penicuik Town hall were thieving goons, and demanded a ridiculous price for the hall, so the only way we managed to book the gig was if all the bands chipped in for the price of the hall, and we would pay everyone back at the end. That’s why there was a ‘We’; because there was no way I could have started this without the other bands help. Once I got a job and rationed my beer money, by BOB fest 2 I footed the bills myself. Been doing so ever since. I will give credit to Barry (Buchanan) from Dog Tired, too, though. He has helped out ever since he started in DT.

VM: It’s good to acknowledge your roots!
LJ: Definitely!

VM: What is the ethos of the event? How do you pick the line-up?
LJ: The ethos from day one is that it’s a festival built for having fun! BOB FEST is always full of people wanting to have a great time. Since BOB FEST 1 there has always been a friendly, drunken, family atmosphere, where people pit and worship Heavy Metal. I like to think that the bands that play let go and really enjoy themselves. At BOB there’s nothing to prove. It’s just a group of like-minded people partying. A lot of the bands that have played in past Bobs I had seen live, playing alongside them over the years in Dog Tired and Torn Face. This doesn’t mean that it’s just mates that play; if people are interested in playing, message the Bob fest page and I’ll get back to them.

VM: Quite a community spirit, then.
LJ: Definitely! Penicuik has a unique Metal community and spirit. They will burst out laughing reading that. Somehow, this scaffy wee town in Midlothian has always had a belting metal scene.

VM: What do you think has been the hardest thing about running BOB Fest?
LJ: Bands not showing and cancelling either on the day, or the night before. That sucks major balls. The main challenge is the weather. In 2012 I put Bob Fest 6 out in the green for an open air experience. It was an incredible day, sun blazing and the smell of beer and spew in the air! What was also great was the fact that the whole town heard it! Tonnes of complaints naturally flooded The Craigiebield after, and the police arrived, but it was a day I will never forget. I planned to do this in 8 and 9 but the Penicuik weather system had another agenda. It rained so much 2 days before, that – on both occasions – the grass was actually flooded. There was not even a chance of putting up a gazebo, unless a band were happy sinking into the ground during the solo. The amount of effort that goes into organising an open air gig for it to rain last minute is extremely frustrating. Perhaps in the future I’ll give it another shot, but not this year.

VM: Do you have any favourite moments that still stick out in your mind?
LJ: Too many! Where to begin? Adam Poustie from Edgeville Hellride’s victory speech after the cake eating competition was legendary. The faces of the poor folk that got involved in the chilli eating competition will never be forgotten, either. I think people nearly died that day.

LJ: There have been so many great bands that have played that I couldn’t mention all the highlights I remember. Having crowd pleasers Certain Death, epic tyrants Firebrand Super Rock, Achren and Man of the Hour definitely ruled though. Back in BOB 1 it was bring your own booze! Many ridiculous moments then. 10 years on, its still going strong, with a growing fan-base.

VM: Ten years is a long time! Have you ever felt like packing it in?
LJ: It is a long time. I’ve thought about, maybe, in the far future, passing it down to someone. I would love to be wheeled into BOB FEST 30 as an old man. It is that one day of the year that people from all over join friends and family, and party listening to metal. I don’t think there is any need to stop that.

VM: Are you happy, then, with where the show is now, or do you have ambitions to take it somewhere new?
LJ: I’m always looking to make BOB FEST bigger and better every year. Whether that be the annual eating competition, or the bands I am booking. This year will also be Dog Tired’s 10th anniversary, so I’m planning to make it huge.

BOB Fest 10 - BOBSTOCK

VM: Sounds like it’ll be a huge blow out, then! You guys party hard!
LJ: Penicuik parties hard!

VM: Indeed! Well, that about wraps it up. Thank you again for your time! Do you have any closing advice for those thinking of taking on a similar event?
LJ: Thanks man. For advice I’d say go for it! If you want to make your own night/alldayer/festival’ it can be done! Get all the essentials booked in place well before the event. Things like backline/P.A/stage, if needed. Then promote it! A Facebook event page won’t do. Poster the surrounding area, and get friends to help with flyering. Be kind to all bands that are playing, and make sure you compensate bands that travelled from further afield. We all love metal, but we’ve all got to make ends meet.

by Paul Macmillan

BOB FEST 10 takes place on Saturday the 18th of July at the Craigiebield House Hotel In Penicuik. Tickets will be available at the door. The event page and the bands will be announced soon.

Interview with Gehennah’s Rob Stringburner

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , on 16th February 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Having a history of active service in the ranks of metal stretching back to the early 1990s, Swedes Gehennah have seen their fair share of ups and downs over the years. However, the recent high point in signing with Metal Blade records seems to have breathed new life into this particular sleeping dragon. Valkyrian Music quizzes guitarist Rob Stringburner.

Gehennah

Paul: First up, while the Metal Police title was used on last year’s EP, the material on the 2015 long player also consists of re-recorded versions of older tracks, and the sound is pretty different. Is it more in line with what you had originally imagined?

Rob: That’s a good question. Back in the day we didn’t care that much about the sound, we just played on any equipment we stumbled upon, and, once in the studio, we got in and out as fast as we could, with just a few moments of setting up the sound. I remember that I specifically asked for ear-splitting cymbals like on ”Blood Fire Death” at one point, but I don’t think we ever managed that. In the end, the drinks were a lot more interesting.
Regarding the new versions, I think we play them a bit better, more groovy, but, yes, perhaps a bit slower. The actual production of those six songs didn’t turn out exactly as we wanted, not like the other 6 from the original EP-session, but it’s OK I guess. Mostly, we had a lot of issues with the mixing phase, and also this time around we only spent three or four hours in the studio recording!

Paul: When I listened to the album, I heard an obvious leaning towards the Venom sound, but there seem to be a lot more intangible influences throughout. Who else has helped to shape the sound?

Rob: Yeah, Venom was the main influence from the beginning, and we were huge fans of the ’80s harder metal scene, with bands like Destruction, Sodom and Celtic Frost, but we also grew up straight into the Death and Black Metal scene, so we took a lot of influences from there as well. For example, the first song we ever rehearsed back in ’92 was a cover of Beherit’s Unholy Pagan Fire, since we found Venom too complicated, and we’ve listened to a lot of punk and hard-core, too! Can’t forget about Motörhead either! Anyway, I’d have to write a way too long list to include all the obscure bands we’ve taken ideas from.

Paul: Have you picked up any new influences in recent years?

Rob: Well, we have of course listened to music for another 20 years so I guess it’s bound to happen, but as far as the song writing goes, we try to stay in the same style as we did before. I think for my part that my solos have become even more rock ’n’ roll and country-influenced, perhaps, but then again I could never play ”metal”-type solos.
Ronnie Ripper was one of our main songwriters before, so his departure has obviously changed things a bit, but I think that Charley has added a thing of his own that fits perfectly into our sound.

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Paul: Kicking off in 1992, you landed smack bang between the original wave of NWOBHM and the current musical climate which seems to crave more and more retro styles. Do you think you were born too early or too late?

Rob: Always wondered that myself. We were certainly born wrong in some way! Even if we took a lot of influences from the ’80s, when we started out I don’t think we’ve ever been retro. We just didn’t include the keyboards, angeline female vocals or rap into our music like others did at the time.

Paul: A lot of bands aim for that old school sound, but few actually achieve it without sounding a bit contrived. Do you think it’s possible to emulate the vibe, or is it just something you grew up with?

Rob: I guess for us we have never tried to sound ”old”, we just did what we wanted to do and had mostly old favorite bands, but perhaps you end up sounding contrived when you set your sights on a certain sound that has already been done, in any way, it will not be entirely you. I think that there are perhaps a bit too many “role playing” bands around these days. We like a lot of old bands but I don’t think we aim to sound old specifically, just right.

Paul: I think one of the great things about the Gehennah is that you have fun with the lyrics and subject matter, but still have serious song-writing as a back-bone. Do you think some bands take the ‘having a laugh’ thing too far?

Rob: Thanks, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do! I agree that it’s a fine line between being a band that have fun and being a comedy band.

Paul: As a collection of new material and classic tracks, Metal Police seems like a full release unto itself. Are there any murmurings in the Gehennah camp of a complete album of new material?

Rob: Yeah, we’re writing a new album as we speak! Why this release ended up as it did was more of a coincidence. When we recorded the EP in 2013 we just recorded the first songs we wrote with the new line-up to get something out there as soon as possible, and when Metal Blade picked it up they asked us to fill it out with something so they could do a proper release.

Paul: Underground thrash is on the rise again, at least in the UK. Would you ever consider doing another Headbangers Against Disco, like you did with Sabbat and others in the late 1990s?

Rob: Of course that would be cool! It was actually our old label Primitive Art Records’ idea to do the releases, and I guess we’d need devoted people like that again to realize such plans. As far as the actual HAD-membership club goes, I don’t think we’ll ever have the time to start that up again, but it was great times with cool parties while it lasted.

Paul: What plans, if any, do you have to take this on the road (or to Britain, to be precise)?

995031_697785776938673_588357176_nRob: As I’m writing this, we have just got back from a small tour in Italy, and we’re gonna focus on the album a while now, with just the odd gig in Sweden during the spring, but as soon as we get the new album recorded we’ll try to hit the road! Hopefully UK of course. Never played there before, and that’s of course a cryin’ shame as it’s the home of so much legendary stuff. Promoters get in touch!

Paul: Do you have anything else to say before we wrap up?

Rob: Thanks a lot for the support, and watch out for a new album, and perhaps even Gehennah showing up at your doorstep in the future!

Interview by Paul Macmillan

One year later – interview with THE END OF GRACE

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , on 2nd December 2014 by Pieni

Formed in December 2012 between Stockholm and Gothenburg, THE END OF GRACE has been under my radar practically ever since. I made sure to be present on their live debut, at Rockbitch Boat 2013, and took the chance to interview them at the time (read it here). Now, exactly one year later, the boys played the same event… and there I went again, and had a chat with them, again. I sat down with Johan (clean vocals/bass), Jimmy (guitar) and Thomas (drums), and eventually Kriss (growls) joined us. And what was supposed to be just a quick catching-u, ended up being quite a long conversation, both riveting and amusing.

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Renata: It’s been exactly one year since your first show, but you’ve played quite a few meanwhile. What was the best and worst experience you’ve had so far?
Jimmy Bergman: The best experience was when we were on tour with OUTTRIGER. It was so much fun!
Thomas Manell: Actually… no! ‘Cause Johan wasn’t there!
Jimmy: Yeah, I know, but it was really amazing for us!
Thomas: What do you have to say about that, Johan?
Johan Hagman: Well, I had the best time of my life when you were out there touring, so… (laughs)

Renata: So for you, Johan, what was your best show?
Johan: It was NOT the OUTTRIGER tour… (laughs). I don’t know. It was really fun last night, actually. It really felt like people stepped out to the plate. After one year we’ve hopefully grown together that much, so it felt good, it felt cool. I think that was one of the best shows. But soundwise it must have been Sticky Fingers because they have the best sound. Now the worst show…
Jimmy: That was also the OUTTRIGER tour (laughs). There were like… four people!
Johan: Ha, now I get it. But we had so many shows with crappy sound…
Thomas: Kryptan…
Jimmy: Definitely Kryptan!
Johan: Oooooh! Sure, sure! Kryptan!
Thomas: It was very well set, we got hotel rooms, food, beer…
Johan: Too much beer…
Thomas: True, we had too much beer. Anyway, they took care of us but the show itself was just… terrible!
Johan: The sound was terrible and we got drunk. After that we decided not to drink again before shows.
 photo _DSC0040_zps5cfc20ac.jpgThomas: Robert (Åkerlund, guitar) was sooooo pissed, yelling at the sound guy. We had programmed all the sound before, the soundcheck took like one hour and a half, two hours – which is extremely long for a soundcheck – and then when we’re supposed to start playing, everything that they had memorized is gone! As for the funniest experience, I think it was with SEVENTRIBE. That tour we played in Linköping, Gothenburg and Stockholm? That was really much fun. And the Rockbitch Boat this year and last year. It’s a good event, there are lots of people… and we get to hang out.

Renata: I remember that last year, your first show was also the first time the five of you were playing together. That’s still your MO, rehearsing separately?
Johan: Didn’t you hear our soundcheck last night?
Thomas: That was rehearsal! (laughs)
Johan: That was the first time we’ve all played the new song (“Final Burden”) together, so that was rehearsal. We can’t rehearse but people can tell that we focus on the positive sides. We do what we do and it works.

Renata: Speaking about “Final Burden”, the reception by the crowd was so great! Were you expecting that?
Johan: I think people are embracing the new sound. That new song is harder and I think people like that. I saw what bands the kids out there had on their t-shirts and it’s right down our alley. And we’ve been talking about sounds for soooo long… So if one song, that no one ever heard, gets that reaction…
Thomas: It’s such a good thing!

Renata: Which reminds me that you, Johan, were afraid of ruining the TEoG sound given your hardcore preference/influence, but after listening both “Beneath The Waves” and now “Final Burden”, I don’t think anything’s ruined at all – just as I expected!
Johan: Ah, but “Beneath The Waves” was written long before!
Jimmy: It was maybe the first song we did with THE END OF GRACE.
Johan: Anyway, it was never a problem. We’re so open now, we have the sound that we’re aiming for. I was unsure at the time but it’s really never been a problem.

Renata: So in comparison to “Lost In Transition”, what can the fans expect from this upcoming new album? photo _DSC0291_zps8ea75ad2.jpg
Jimmy: Faster riffs. And more riffs in the songs.
Johan: Yes, much more riffs! More breakdowns too.
Jimmy: Really fast drums…
Thomas: Yeah, we’ll see about that… (laughs).
Johan: Cleaner. Better.
Jimmy: Harder.
Johan: More… us, in my opinion. More Kriss, more me, more Jimmy, more Robert, more Thomas… You know, we can send a metalcore song to Thomas and then he grooves it up. That’s the funny thing – we want the drums in a certain way but then he… I can’t explain it! It gets groovy! All of a sudden it’s groovy. What the fuck, this works! It’s not supposed to, it was supposed to be a drum machine! (laughs) But yeah, faster, heavier, and even more focused on the choruses.

Renata: On that first gig, Robert was still a stand-in guitarist, replacing Sulan Von Zoomlander. What did he bring to the band when he became a permanent member of TEoG?
Thomas: Yesterday me and Johan were talking about how Jimmy and Robert work together as guitarists. Not just how they play but what they do on stage – taking each side, jumping on the speakers and just giving it all to the audience. That’s one of the things that tells you how well they work together.
Johan: They have a healthy rivalry. If Jimmy does something, Robert has to do it too but he has to do it a bit better. And then Jimmy has to best him… you know?
Thomas: And you said that it makes YOU want to do better!
Johan: Exactly! Hopefully I can make them do what they do and feel comfortable around me, ‘cause I can’t play bass that well, I just focus on banging my head and then they can focus on doing their shit. And then all of a sudden they’re standing on speakers! (laughs) It feels like they get fired up from each other and it’s “fuck it, I have to do better than him”.

Renata: So you’re more consistent, more whole as a band?
Johan: I hope so! But it comes with baggage. We’ve been playing together for so long (Jimmy, Johan and Robert played in ROAD TO REPENT before THE END OF GRACE) and we all know each other so well that it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing it as we used to. The same problems, the same issues, same discussions… That hasn’t been a problem yet but I believe it won’t be as we’re more open now.
Renata: And you’ve been through that before, so now you know how to find a way.
Thomas: You’ve learnt from it.
Johan: And especially with this band, where we never see each other. With the other band it was three times a week, but this time we never see each other.
Renata: You don’t have time to get tired of each other.
Johan: Exactly! It’s a blessing and a curse (laughs).

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Renata: Last time we also talked about making a video (which you ended up doing for “Beneath The Waves”) and how the budget was the biggest obstacle. What we didn’t talk about was – if you had an unlimited budget, how would you like to make a video?
Thomas: Personally, I’m not a big fans of videos where you just see the band standing and playing in a certain scenario. I’d like to try animations and stuff like that. Try to build a story – fiction or whatever. That would be cool.
Renata: Any special storyline in your head already?
Thomas: No, that would depend on the song.
Renata: Something according to the lyrics then. And you guys?
Jimmy: I’m with Thomas. I don’t like to see just the band, I want a story behind it. It’s more fun to see.
Renata: Animation too or… ?
Jimmy: I hope for a big production actually. Girls… cars… you name it.
Johan (while Thomas laughs): What the fuck?! Have you even heard what you’ve said? “We want girls, we want cars”… whaaat??? (laughs).
Thomas: One of my favorite bands nowadays, I think I actually like their videos more than their music… (pauses) well, they’re both good.
Johan: They are called THE END OF GRACE(laughs).
Thomas: They’re called OK GO – definitely no metalcore but I love their music videos. They’re in them themselves where they do all these fucked up things. In one (“This Too Shall Pass”) they have these Rube Goldberg machines and they jump from one to another, just like a domino. They drop one domino and it goes all the way around through the whole music video. That kind of things! So it’s interesting to see the video.
Renata: It catches your attention.
Jimmy: Girls… cars… (laughs).
Johan: BRUDAR (girls in Swedish)! Well I don’t have a problem with a performance video. I think it’s cool, more old-school-ish, but it depends on how you do it. it’s not good to see a performance video shot from one angle, you have to do something else, something special. Like in BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE’s video “Tears Don’t Fall” where they introduce the water, and then you have their song “Hand Of Blood” where they go SLAYER and it’s raining blood and shit like that. That’s cool. Of course I could see something with a storyline and I think lyrical meaning works really well.

Renata: You’ve told me last year how the expression “deathcore popcorn” came about. Tell me now about the “angry pop” hashtag that I’ve been seeing in all your Instragram photos!
Jimmy: Yeaaaaah… that was me. Again (grins). There’s this band that I won’t say the name where the guy hates metalcore. He called it “angry pop”. But I actually think it’s perfect for us! We ARE an angry pop band! So I took it!

Thomas: And Kriss is here! We can do all the questions again… (laughs).

Renata: Is there anything about this past year that you want to share? Something that’s happened or that you’ve planned for the near future?
Jimmy: World domination! (laughs).
Thomas: Jimmy is moving to Gothenburg, close to Kriss, and I only have two hours of driving to Gothenburg from where I live…
Renata: So it’s not world domination, it’s world chaos…
Thomas: Ha ha, yeah, it’s world chaos! But I think that’s going to change a bit how we’ll work from now on. We will be able to rehearse and Johan and Robert can come down once in a while.
Kriss Panic: I happen to know a flashy new studio.
Johan: Progress! We’ve got a practice room! And we’ve got an album…
Renata: Any idea of when it’s going to be released?
Johan: Let’s say… we don’t. It’s better that way. We’ve got the songs. That’s it for now.

Renata: What about “Final Burden”? Will it be released as a single?
Johan: It’s just a new song. I don’t know about the other guys, we haven’t talked face-to-face about it yet, but in my opinion it’s just a new song.
Thomas: You’re so mysterious! (laughs)

Renata: I think it’s good to keep some things to yourselves. Nowadays things are posted on the internet so on-the-spot, every idea that later it doesn’t sound so good anymore or just can’t be fulfilled. I remember, for instance, someone posting “TEoG is so unstable!”, when Sulan left, because you’ve had all those line-up changes before. But that’s common in the beginning. So many major bands went through it but at the time there was no Facebook to post about it and so you’d only come to know the line-up that would be playing a show or recording an album.
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Johan: It’s so easy to post stuff on Facebook. It’s better to be a bit more careful. But when it comes to stability, this band it’s not unstable AT ALL. There will be no more line-up changes. I don’t think any of us would want to keep on playing if someone would quit right now. It’s a special feeling. If Kriss would leave, how would we ever find someone who could… what did Robert say? It was in Swedish and I can’t find the right words in English.
Thomas: Oh yeah, last night! It was so beautiful!
Renata: Call him!
Johan: He’s asleep, he’s hung-over (laughs). It was something like Kriss being able to suck the audience in and make them feel like they’re right there in your face.
Thomas: Exactly! Thar Kriss can make that person in the back of the room feel like he’s in front of the stage. His way of entertaining. He really REALLY entertains the audience. That is something that’s unique and it has become a sort of a trademark for us. We’re a live band after all.
Kriss: This is maybe weird for a singer to say, but my inspiration on stage isn’t any singer. It’s actually Jimi Hendrix. I see myself inside Jimi. I don’t always sing the same way ‘cause I think that makes a better show. If you’ve seen us a bunch of times, and you see the same thing over and over again, I think it gets boring. So I change it. Not all of the time, I’d say 90% of it it’s the same, but I switch things around a little bit. I think music is organic and you can change things, especially on a live show. When you write music, in your head it’s dead on. but once you’ve sung it or played a bunch of times, you think “oh, I wish I’ve done this way, I wish I’ve done it that way” and it’s always a kind of progression. Maybe not so much with the guitars, but with vocals it’s fun to do.
Johan: And there’s room for it.
Kriss: That’s why I love you guys because none of you goes “uh, what the fuck?”. It’s fun, you know? Have fun on the fucking stage! Enjoy what you do! That’s the more important thing. And the crowd sees you having fun and that you’re digging it… We’re on a journey for every show, so follow us!
Thomas: Like yesterday. I think we had a great crowd, considering the fact that we were the first band out and people were still drinking in their cabins or whatever. But we had a great crowd who built a fucking mosh pit! That gives you a special feeling.

Renata: That thing you’ve said of “enjoying what you do” being the most important thing. I totally agree. I think you have to please yourselves first. It pisses me off when some people accuse a band of disregarding their fans just because they wanted to try something new.
 photo _DSC0251_zpsb1e38e02.jpgKriss: I think it’s a fine line. As a band, from a business side – which I deal with (Kriss is a promoter and band booker for Klubb Defused at Sticky Fingers) – sometimes you have to put yourself out for others. We are a metalcore band, by definition, and within those boundaries you can mess around but… SLIPKNOT have made pretty much the same album for four albums but they love it. They’ve now changed their sound and developed it. I think that’s the way forward. I don’t think we’ll be needing to make a radical departure from our sound, we’re not going to turn into SABATON anytime soon, but you can evolve, you can grow the music. And for us, the way we’re set up – living in different parts of the country – we do our best to put up the best possible show that we can. But I think that from day one it’s just been about the energy. Pure pure energy. I believe that if you’re going to do a show and people come and pay money to see that shit, you’re not going to just stand there. We’re not a dance band, we’re not going to be still… we get into it, it’s fuckin metal! You shake your head and jump around the stage. That makes for a great show, it’s what people want to see. If you’re on a boat like this, with 30 bands, how do you separate yourself from the others? I figure you just go in the attitude “I’m going to blow everyone away in this fucking killer live show”. And I also think heavy metal fans are very forgiving about certain things. To me the most important thing is to see a killer live show, people giving it all. I think the crowd respects that more. I know a lot of bands who can stand there and be super tight but that’s not a live show to me, that’s listening to a cd. And if I want to listen to a cd, I can do that back home. I want to see some guys shake their heads up and down. I had my club night and I saw I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN. They played at Sticky Fingers at the small stage and I’ve never seen a band make that stage look so big. It’s the tiniest stage, you’ve seen us on there, and they just made it seem huge. And I think that’s the key, if you can nail that. Last night the stage was really small but we made it look fucking huge. We opened up. We’ve played with some bands and they’ve not learned how to use the stage yet, while we just kind of go in and… If there’s something to jump on, we’re on it! If something provides me a fucking hangoff, I’m doing it! I’m going to bring this fucking whole show into your face. Jump into the audience… I’ll join your moshing! You know, let’s do this!
Thomas: It gets more natural to do that because we’re not getting together that often. So every time we meet for a gig it’s like… I’m going to be super Swedish now, but it’s like when you let the cows out in the spring, they go super happy. photo _DSC0075_zps7968191c.jpg
Johan: We’re like cattle, that’s what you’re saying…
Thomas: Yeah, we’re like cattle, man (laughs). I love these guys, both as persons and as my fellow musicians. Being up on stage and playing with them it’s the best thing I know. And that reflects itself, people can tell. You can go up and do a great show as a band but it can be fake, like a built-up show. But it comes natural for us. Being us is enough. (Addressing Kriss) what was it that you said about a year ago, in Stockholm, at Pub Anchor? “I’m just being me” or something.
Kriss: Oh, right! “I don’t do pressure, I just do me”. In the beginning I had nerves doing shows with the boys, but now it’s just a relaxed and calm feeling. It’s like a relationship you have with someone, in a sense that when you first start you’re always a bit tentative but then, after a certain amount of time… It’s like my relationship with my girlfriend, I wake up in the morning and it’s just natural. And that’s what it’s like being on stage. Right now it’s just natural, everyone’s very comfortable with what’s going on. I have to say I’m super stoked that Johan’s back ‘cause he’s poured the energy back into the band, especially on this boat. We just missed that, it’s just not the same. Niklas (Aggemyr, THROUGH THE CRACKS) did a great job but we can’t replicate Johan. He’s that little bit of glue that binds us together.
Thomas: And for those of you who can’t see it, Johan has a tear in his eye. (laughs)

Kriss: One thing I love is watching all of us develop as human beings, not just as musicians. Like Johan getting married, I’m getting married next year… we are all in a different place, we’re not that band just going out trying to score chicks. We’re just about playing music, literally. And I think that’s more positive. We’ll have a drink, as we did last night, have some fun, but it’s more focused on the music. And I think that’s a more positive thing for us because that really comes out. We’re not worrying about other shit and we’re more together as a band because of that.
Johan: We want to be positive. We are all positive beings. photo _DSC0200_zps5588e570.jpg
Kriss: We were talking about lyrics… how do you write metal that’s positive? It’s quite a difficult thing! ‘Cause the way I sing it’s pretty brutal at times, so how do you turn that into positivity? Me and Johan had talked about it and I think you can still be angry but positive at the same time. Obviously it’s metal, we’re not going to sit and write love songs in that way. We ain’t gonna be Barry White(laughs)
Johan: As Kriss said, metal, traditionally, is angry and it’s a great way to get all your frustrations out. And most lyrics are kind of negative. And I think the future is being able to write songs about positive things because, like I said, no one in this band is a bad dude.
Kriss: I’m a badass dude, what are you talking about? (laughs)
Thomas: But he has a big heart.
Johan: That’s the thing! Everyone has a big heart! Why should we not show that in our lyrics? There’s not a song in the new album that involves anything negative.
Kriss: I think we’ve developed. It’s still angry but we’re just taking a different perspective on things. We’ve changed as human beings since the first stuff came out. I think we’re just trying to connect with people from a different angle, it’s more about personal experiences than anything else.
Johan: Just take “Final Burden”. It’s an angry song but it’s anger towards yourself, to what you’ve done, what you have to become to be a better person. We all want to be better persons, we all NEED to be better persons. Why not write music about that instead of “I wanna fucking kill you”? (starts singing SLIPKNOT’s “Disasterpiece”). Nothing wrong with that, but… I’m really really proud of the lyrical meaning for all of the songs now because we’re all positive dudes, we should make music about positive messages.

TEoG official Facebook

Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Interview with Johan Carlsson of Sparzanza

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , on 14th September 2014 by Pieni

 photo 10558040-origpic-fe62b6_zps3b638754.jpgI’ve been a Sparzanza fan for some five years, since I’ve first heard “My World Of Sin”. That song was featured in their 4th album “In Voodoo Veritas” and they’ve released three more after that, none of them ever disappointing me. So I was more than thrilled for this chance to interview bassist Johan Carlsson and get to know a little bit more about their latest “Circle”, among other things.

RL: Since this is the first time Valkyrian Music is talking to Sparzanza, I’d like to go back in time a bit. So my first question is… what does Sparzanza mean?
JC: Well, it comes from some old Blaxploitation movie from the 70’s. I believe it was the name of a very unpleasant pimp. Although, it was a long time ago. It was the first singer (Peter Eriksson) who came up with the name for a song first, and then the band used it as a band name. Do not ask me what movie it was, ‘cause I have absolutely no idea!

RL: You’ve been hardening your sound for some time now, but “Circle” is definitely your heaviest album so far. Was that intentional, at the beginning of the songwriting process, or it just turned out that way?
JC: This time it was really not intentional. It has been intentional on some of the albums, but not this time. This time we wanted to make a great record and have absolutely no boundaries. We have experimented a bit more this time, different guitar sounds, tunings, double bass drums and stuff, but in the end the song is what is in focus. And has always been.
We also wanted to have a more honest production, without too much overdubs and drum triggers and so on. More natural. photo sparzanzapress2011fotorobertrundberget2_zpscf09b13c.jpg

RL: Still, you manage to always keep that “something” that identifies it as a Sparzanza song. How would you describe the Sparzanza sound to someone who has never heard you before? What would you say it’s your best quality in order to convince that person to go and listen to it?
JC: I would say that it lies within the melancholy of the melodies. We have very strong melodies, which are very dark most of the times. Especially on the former album “Death Is Certain, Life Is Not” when we really dug us down into darkness. Still it’s not goth- or depressing music. It is really heavy hard rock/metal with great melodies. And with one of the best and most various rock and metal singers available (Fredrik Weileby).

RL: That “trademark” sound is also heard in covers – five years ago, you’ve released your own version of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”. How did that idea come about, to release it at that particular time and why that song?
JC: We did it because we needed some attention at that time, actually. I don’t remember why we chose that particular song, but it might have to do with us thinking Mr. Idol is pretty cool. Also, since we wanted to do a cover a lot different than the original (otherwise don’t do it) and the production of that song is a bit lame, we thought we had something to work on. Our cover version, unlike other cover versions of that song, is very dynamic and has a cool Sparzanza feeling over it.

RL: And if Sparzanza would ever do something like that again, what song would you like to cover?
JC: Oh, that is a hard question. We actually talked about it the other day but never decided anything. Personally, I would like us to try a cover we did about 15 years ago – “Skirtlifter” by a band called Buffalo.

 photo sparzanza-circle-cover2014_zps895cce4d.jpgRL: Like it’s said on the website, “a circle is not something that has one specific meaning”. Is that why it was chosen as title for the album? For its diversity?
JC: Our street team, called The Black Cult was actually an inspiration. We wanted something on the cover that could be interpreted as a cult, something that is boiling underground without the public really knowing about it. The title is chosen out of that, and it’s a good title since it can be interpreted in several different ways.

RL: Of all the meanings it can have, which one is your personal favorite?
JC: The occult thing – a circle unknown to all!

RL: And still speaking of favorites… which song of “Circle” do you like to listen to the most and which one do you like to play live the most?
JC: Personally I think “Black” is a great song. It turned out one of the heaviest songs we have ever written. “Pine Barrens” is the coolest song to play live I think. The riffs are cool to play and it’s a great… no, it’s an amazing show opener!

RL: Why did it take so long for “Circle” to be released worldwide? (Note: “Circle” was released in the Northern countries in March and is set to be released worldwide on the 26th September)
JC: There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week! We concentrated on the Scandinavian countries first and needed some more time to plan the release outside of Scandinavia. We are doing a lot of work ourselves. We have our own label who releases the albums outside of Scandinavia and with all the touring and stuff we did not have the time to release it properly until now. I hope it was worth the wait!

RL: And can we expect live shows outside the Northern countries?
JC: Hell yeah! Right now there are plans for shows in Germany, Spain and UK in 2014. Then we will do the Benelux countries as well as China in 2015. That is the plan now, but there might be additions to that tour schedule.

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RL: You’ve mentioned on Facebook that there’s a new song already, “Plainfield”. Was it born spontaneoulsy or are you already working hard on the next release? Is it too early to ask if you’ll keep on the heavy path of “Circle” or keep moving into something else?
JC: We’re always writing songs. This time, though, it was a spontaneous thing. We have not started to write a lot for the next record, but there are always plenty of ideas to be worked on. I think it might be a little premature to talk about how the next record will sound, but it won’t be less heavy than “Circle”, I can guarantee you that!

RL: In the band’s bio the drums are mentioned as being “in your face” in this album, and that the sound is different due to the “use of alternate tunings of the guitars”. Does this include the bass guitar or would you like to add something else about the input of your bass in “Circle”?
JC: Well, since the guitars are tuned different I had to tune the bass different too sometimes. But I have been trying to keep the low tuning that I always use on my basses. It sometimes makes it harder to play the songs but the sound stays heavy. Otherwise than that I really like to keep both the playing and the gear pretty simple. Just the amps I always use, my Sandberg basses and a pre-amp, that’s it. Me and Anders (the drummer) also rehearsed by ourselves a lot this time before recording, to make it even heavier.

RL: Well it’s been a pleasure talking to you! All the best with those plans!
JC: Thanks!

www.sparzanza.com

Interview by Renata “Pieni” Lino