Category: Interviews

 

One of the things I have noticed while still interviewing artists during this Covid-19 lockdown is that they seem to have very wide reactions to the lockdown. Either they have found themselves to be in a very creative space or have found that creativity has completely dried up and they have concentrated on re-charging their batteries so they can hit the road running when the lockdown is finally over.

One of the bands that have been most creative during this time though have been Italian heavy metal band Secret Rule who fuelled by requests from fans have delivered an album of covers during the lockdown. With the band covering the likes of Ozzy Osbourne through to Placebo I decided to sit down and have a chat with front woman Angela Di Vincenzo.

“We just wanted to challenge ourselves,” says Di Vencenzo laughing when I ask her where the idea for Quarantine: The Other Side of Us came from. “Everything really started from requests. During the pandemic we thought about releasing something new and we thought about covering the Ozzy Osbourne song “Get Me Through.” That was a song that we had already played live three years ago when we were touring in the UK, so it was more or less ready.”

“After the release of that we thought about doing another cover,” she goes onto explain. “We thought about doing the Placebo song “Bitter End” which had already been on my mind for a long, long time. We had a very positive response to those with some of the comments on the music videos. Some people said it would be great if we recorded a whole album with cover songs so we decided to think about what songs could work for us and in only two weeks the album was ready.”

With such a wide variety of artists covered on the album I ask Di Vencenzo how the band decided on which tracks would be covered. “It was actually quite simple,” she says. “Everyone has a very different background so during the choosing stage we had a very long list of songs then we tried to keep those that we thought were morning interesting and ones that we could record in our style of course. In any case we would never have done cover songs similar to the originals, we hate that way of approaching songs. We think if a listener wants to listen to a cover song they will expect to listen to something different and new otherwise it is better to just listen to the original version.”

Of course the secret to creating a great cover song is to make it sound like it is your own so I asked Di Vencenzo how Secret Rule went about making sure that is what happened. “We started with the melodies,” she explains. “Then we worked on the arrangements without even considering the original songs – that was very important. In that way we were not influenced by the original songs, but at the same time the songs didn’t lose their essence.

“We set out to record the album in just two weeks,” she says laughing loudly. “We did that because we didn’t know when the quarantine would end. But it was very important for us to do it before the quarantine ended otherwise the title would not have made sense. No doubt the biggest challenge was to work on so many different songs that all required very different approaches. But working with Andy is always full of so many surprises because you will never know what he is going to create in a song.”

“For example it was crazy for me to sing an Eminem song,” she explains again laughing. “It was a real tongue-twister especially when it wasn’t in my native language. I remember when Andy sent through the arrangements I said ‘and who is going to sing this song?’ then with some help from some dirty words I succeeded in singing it. It was a great challenge for me that song.”

 

Quarantine: The Other Side Of Us is out now.

 

 

The past couple of years have seen some major changes for Japanese hardcore outfit Crossfaith. While the band has continues to build a strong fanbase they decided to leave the label that they had been with for a number of years and set up their own label in Japan. While that kind of decision sounds like it would lead to great stress I recently found out while chatting to the band’s front-man Kenta Kole that it has made them feel like they were working with a blank canvas as they prepared to work on their new Species EP which is out this week.

“We didn’t have any concept at all with this album,” he says with a happy tone in his voice. “We just decided to make every song stronger than anything we had ever done in the past. That was our only mindset. We had also started our own label and this is the very first record from the label so it felt like a new beginning and working on this EP felt like it brought us right back to the very start. That was a really great feeling and it seemed to give us a really strong confidence with this album.”

As our discussion goes on we talk more about the band’s decision to start their own label and what it means for them now. “We had been with Sony with five years I think,” says Kole. “They were a great partner but we needed to make a decision and we made the decision to start our own label. That gave us the chance to go out by ourselves and that was one of the main reasons why we decided to start the new label. And yeah it is tough but we needed to make the decision and we decided that we just had to do it. We now have to make all the decisions ourselves.”

The move also means that Kole and the rest of his band mates now feel a more sense of freedom with their work. “That is exactly right,” he agrees when I ask him whether they feel freer now. “Sony is also a major label, they are one of the biggest in the world and sometimes label like that can ask you do to stuff or ask stupid questions. We were lucky that we had some good guys at Sony and we never got any stupid questions, but now we feel like we are freer although we do have more responsibility aside from our music. That means we are free but at the same time we do have major responsibilities… I think that is the major difference.”

With that decision giving them a blank canvas to work on with this album I ask Kole what kind of things that meant for them as they started to work on the Species EP. “With this EP we used some different things that were inspired by 90s culture. I was born in 1988 so the 1990s in our generation. I looked back at the 90s and I felt that the 90s vibe has more excitement compared to right now so i wanted to use the 90s vibe and the 90s style.”

“We were looking at the movies… movies like The Matrix,” explains Kole when I ask him what kinds of things from the 90s did the band use for inspiration for the album. “I think that came out in 1997 or 1998 and when it came out it was like it blew my mind with the movie. I had never seen that kind of movie before when I was young… I got so many shocks. And that music at that time, there was Nu-Metal was so big. Back in the 90s rock bands were the kings but at the moment I would say that rock bands are getting weaker so it was good for me to go back and take a look at those movements because I still think that rock music is one of the most exciting kinds of music in the world. But yeah the 1990s had so many great cultures especially when you think of things like movies and like PlayStation, there was so many new things, it wasn’t just improving the 1990s had so many new things, so many cool new things. So we wanted this EP to be like that, and we had that idea before we even started out with the EP.”

 

Species EP is out on May 22nd through UNFD.

 

 

The mighty Finns are back! With sold-out world tours and some of the highest selling albums of the past decade it is hard to imagine that the talented juggernaut that is Nightwish could get any bigger. Yet the release of their brand new album Human :II: Nature last week has seen the band reach new heights that not even they could imagine.

When I get the chance to talk to lead vocalist Floor Jansen it is obvious that she is still in shock at what the album has managed to achieve in its short life on shelves around the world.

“I just heard that we went number one in England,” she says completely surprised when I tell her that the album has become Nightwish’s highest ever charting in Australia. “Even in the Netherlands and I think Germany we have done really well… it is wonderful news.”

“I definitely get more excited,” she replies with ironically excitement in her voice when her ask how she feels when an album is about to be released to the fans. “To get nervous would mean that you doubt something. By the time you call it ready of course there will always be small things but you do really get this feeling that it is ready for the world. Then you get excited to finally be able to share it because yeah it is time.”

One of the big surprises that many fans got when the album was released was to find that Human :II: Nature is a double album but Jansen says that wasn’t always what the band planned on releasing. “Well, it wasn’t always planned to be a double album,” she says laughing. “It just basically doesn’t fit on one CD. We can fly to the moon and we can do open-heart surgery but we can’t physically put more than eighty-five minutes worth of music on one CD. So that part of the technology caught up yet, so yeah it became a double album.”

Tuomas Holopainen is our song-writer who really provides us with demos,” says Jansen continuing into how the album became a double album. “They are pretty far done by the time that we get them and then we have Pete Williams do the orchestrations but unlike our other albums we don’t have any orchestra on the nine songs that the band plays on that was all saved for the orchestral suite. Then we get input from the rest of the band when we all start to play on tracks that previously were only in Tuomas’ head. That is when the demo version of the song really starts to come alive… it is also a process that seems to really work for us. We did take a long time to rehearse the songs that we got though and this time we really worked on backing vocals as well and also harmonic vocals as well.”

As we chat further about the new album Jansen admits the chance in vocals on this album came about during the last tour. “We had the Decades tour where we went through all the old songs and instead of copying my voice one hundred times on the disc we decided to do a lot of live stuff because the voices of Marco, Troy and I work well together and from that came a whole new sound, basically. That seemed to really inspire Tuomas to write more in that direction and so now basically every chorus on the album is us three doing vocals and that gives us an unique sound. There are unique vocal harmonies on every song, different vocal styles – they really seem to fit the songs.”

With the conversation now centring around the new sound of Nightwish on this album I soon learn that Jansen is not a fan of the people that have been calling this an ‘experimental’ album. “I don’t think it is experimental because we really did have a focus on what we wanted,” she says. “I think musically though we explored more than we have in the past. We were better aware of the diversity in our qualities. I think having someone like Troy who plays so many different instruments and the comes from a different musical background to us. Actually we all have very different musical backgrounds and I think you can hear that more on this album because there was more space for it to flourish and leave its mark on the music in a very positive way.

 

Human :II: Nature is out now through Nuclear Blast Records.

 

 

 

Get ready everybody because the Trivium legend is about to grow even further. Not content with the world domination that has seen the band rise to the top of the heavy music world over the past few years the band have now dropped What The Dead Men Say an album that seems to have already cemented itself as one of the band’s best received albums.

“Of course with every record you want it to be the best record,” says Trivium bass guitarist Paolo Gregoletto when we chat to him about What The Dead Men Say. “We saw that the last record was a real kind of breakthrough for us where we kind of reached this new creative point in our career. I think what we wanted to do this time was follow up that record and try to top it if we could but at least build on it.”

“I think we really wanted to do some stuff with what we had done right on that record,” he says continuing. “Of course working with Josh Wilbur again was a big part of that and then just the way that we wrote the record was very similar especially with how we broke up the writing sessions and how we broke it down to a few songs each time. We just worked on the details and every time we went in there we were just focussed on each song individually. So rather than writing a tonne of stuff we would write two or three songs and then we just kept doing that until we were ready.”

Matching what they had achieved on the band’s last album – The Sin And The Sentence – was never going to be an easy feat though, especially given that this was an album that some critics called “the perfect heavy metal album.”

“We’ve definitely had some high points in our back catalogue,” agrees Gregoletto when I ask whether that kind of praise put more pressure on them when they were working on What The Dead Men Say. “We have had those albums that have really resonated with people a lot and sometimes you do an album that fans really respond to and then you get into this thing where you like ‘okay now we have to do something new’ and you try to completely reinvent the wheel.”

“I think we have done that a few times,” admits Gregoletto. “And I think sometimes it works but at other times it feels like we didn’t really hit that mark the way that we really wanted to, and I think with this record we aren’t re-inventing the wheel we are just enhancing it. I think we tweaked around the margins a little bit but didn’t make such a left turn, we didn’t want people to be like ‘woah what did I listen to on the last record?’ But here it felt like we know where we are at and we are in a good spot now but we need to not take any left turns – we know what we are doing now and we don’t need to shake it up too much.”

One of the things that does really hit you when you take a listen to What The Dead Men Say is the perfect mix that the band find with their song-writing this time around – yes there are the traditional fantasy-led tracks that the band are famous for but there is also a great mix of personal tracks as well.

“Yeah I think we did get a good mix this time,” says Gregoletto when our conversation turns to talking about what inspired the lyrics for this album. “I think we have got a lot better at finding the right balance for it now. It doesn’t feel like it is too far one way or the other now. I mean when I come in with lyrics it is always going to be about whatever I am reading at that time or perhaps whatever I am feeling at that time or sometimes it is even what I am seeing in the world at that time that is going to influence what I am writing at the time.”

“I write down a lot of notes on my iPhone,” he says continuing. “So whenever we get the music started I have these great starting points where I can be like ‘I have these great phrases or lines or scenes or titles.’ I always let that be the starting point and I like to have music that kind of inspires what it is going to be. I know some people like to have lyrics first and write to those but I find I need to know what the mood of the song is going to be before I can be like this is what the song is going to be about.”

 

What Dead Men Say is out today through Roadrunner Records.

 

 

When it comes to achievements there is very little that Canadian hard rock band The Wild! haven’t achieved. From playing at festivals such as Wacken Open Air and Sweden Rock through to touring alongside Godsmack, Steel Panther, Rose Tattoo and Airbourne the band have done it all.

At the same time they have also been recording some of the most infectious and catchy hard rock tunes that you are ever likely to hear. Now they are back with a brand new album called Still Believe In Rock & Roll and I recently had the pleasure of being able to catch up with frontman Dylan Villain to chat all about it.

“With this record I think a lot of what people are hearing opposed to the other ones is the attention to detail when it comes to the lyrics and melodies,” Dylan says as we begin to talk about the album in depth. “I really put a lot of pressure on myself, I really did feel a lot of pressure from all the people around me – from the team, from the fans – but also from myself to make a record that was better than good.”

“The last album we toured with for three years and it took us all over the world,” he says continuing. “We were incredibly thankful for that but as a result of that because of the momentum and gaining that fan base internationally I think created a lot of pressure to make something that was not only better than the last album but something that was great as a whole. We wanted something that would stand the test of time and get into people’s ears and would really make an impact.”

Setting themselves such a task gave The Wild! the opportunity to go out and try to do things a little differently. “We really didn’t leave any stone unturned,” explains Dylan. “We really explored ideas, lyrics and melodies – things like that. That did result in a lot of stress and almost obsession in making something great. I had very little sleep, I think I was getting about three hours sleep a night for about three months, but I just wanted it to be great, man, and I wanted to give everybody something great and I wanted to give ourselves a real shake at making an impact with something great. Like I was saying a lot of people just write some songs, throw them together and say ‘well there is your record, let’s head out on the road that will be good enough.’ But for us that wasn’t going to be the case because I really wanted to make something that was a cut above and I think we really did ourselves that justice and have put out a great record.”

Aside from the pressure that Dylan put on himself and the band to really go above and beyond with this album he also admits that with fans right across the world now the band also felt pressure to get something out there for them. “I think that was all part of the part and parcel of the final product,” he says as we talk about the pressure from fans. “I like to pay attention to what is working with our songs especially when it comes to our live show and things like that. I think the result of that is you pay attention to what is working, gaining fans and gaining momentum you are going to end up feeling that pressure from fans and your fan base. You know in a way you are winning these people over and once you’ve got them you’ve got them but if you don’t deliver you are really letting them down.”

“Ultimately I just wrote what I think is just an honest record,” he says happily. “I just went straight ahead and I did a truthful record full of conviction because all this stuff I sing and talk about is all true, I’ve lived it and it is all real to us as people and the guys that we are in this world. We are not creating trends or writing songs that are the flavour of the week we just do this because this is who we are and we are lucky enough to have enough people that believe in us to give us a job. Yes there will be pressure and you can do either of two things. You can buckle and let that fear take you or you can push straight ahead and let it take you as far as you can go.”

 

Still Believe In Rock & Roll is out now.

 

 

 

When it comes to music Brian Tichy has drummed for Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner and The Dead Daisies just to name a few. Now he has teamed up with Pete Shoulder from The Union and Winterville to form a new rock band called Silverthorne.

With Silverthorne now releasing their debut EP – titled Tear The Sky Wide Open – I decided to sit down and have a chat with Tichy about the band in general and what fans can expect to hear on their debut EP.

“It actually all came about back when I was touring with Whitesnake,” says Tichy when we first begin to talk about how Silverthorne came about. “It was 2011 and we were touring in the UK and we had this opening band called The Union. I went and saw them open up and I noted that the lead singer was killer. They had this great singer and I met him and he was a really nice guy. We didn’t keep in touch or anything and that was that. Then flash forward a few years later and I had this new project going with the brothers from Stone Temple Pilots. We hadn’t recorded anything but we had a bunch of music and some great ideas but we needed to find a singer for this thing. Then they heard about Pete Shoulder and they sent me little snippets of him singing and they were like ‘I think we have found our guy, this guy is great.’ Then we realised that I knew him and then we just all got together and made a record.”

“Now we’ve made the record and we are already thinking about the next step,” continues Tichy. “We are already looking to move forward and now Stone Temple Pilots have their brand new lead singer so they had to make a decision, whether to go ahead with STP or us and they made their decision and I am okay with that because they have a great career and if they keep that band going then all power to them. So we were put on indefinite hiatus and that could have gone on for years so I asked Pete to come out to LA and do some recording because he was a great musician, great lyricist and great guy all round. We have very similar interests with what we like in music and stuff and with what we wanted from an original band.”

It turned out that Pete Shoulder’s trip out to Los Angeles really kicked off the start of Silverthorne. “We wrote a lot of stuff then,” says Tichy. “We had a bunch of fun and recorded a lot of stuff and then 2018 went by and then we signed up with Golden Robot in 2019 then we had everything done by the end of spring and the first single came out in the summer and now the EP is out and we are ready to go.”

Signing with Golden Robot was also a big step for the band, and it is one that is not lost on Brian Tichy. “When we signed with Golden Robot it was just Pete and I doing all the writing,” he says. “But then we were able to bring in Daniel Spree on bass and we all loved what he loved in music and loved his style and that was it… it was all pretty simple and now here we are.”

With so much of making Silverthorne work resting on finding the right lead singer I ask Tichy what it was about Pete Shoulder that made him so sure that he was the right pick for the band. “Oh man I don’t know how to describe it,” he says. “You just listen to his voice and you know. Some people just seem to have that quality that you gravitate towards and I just saw that he had qualities of some of my favourite singers – some of the best singers in rock n roll. I’m talking about everybody from Paul Rogers, Coverdale, Chris Cornell right through to Jeff Buckley. I heard all of them in his voice and I think it is so rare to find somebody like that – especially when it is somebody that is not completely busy doing their own thing. I could see how amazingly talented he was and it was just such a rare thing to find. That is the biggest battle when you are starting a new band – finding the right singer. It is one thing if he is a great singer but he may be hard to get along with or he may have an attitude or a drug problem. But with Pete it was none of the above he was a straightforward guy who loves music and loves being creative and he just happens to have a bad ass voice.”

 

Tear The Sky Wide Open is out now.

 

 

One of the most interesting doom metal bands to watch the progress of over the last decade has been Denver based band Khemmis. Over that time the band have gone from being one of Denver’s best kept secrets through to a band with a record deal with Nuclear Blast. When you also consider that they have delivered three sensational albums over that time there is little wonder that this is a band that has well and truly one over the doom genre.

Now they return with a mini-album to keep their fans more than happy while they are in lockdown. Doomed Heavy Metal see the band serve up some live traps that capture the true essence of their first three albums while serving up some rarities including a Dio cover and the sensational “A Conversation With Death” which would be instantly recognisable to anyone that has played The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man Of Medan.

“I guess the reason that it came about was because we had a couple of songs that had been recorded for different projects,” explains Daniel Beiers when I get a chance to talk to him about Doomed Heavy Metal. “One of those was recorded for Decibel Magazine which is the metal magazine in the US. They have a series where they send out magazines with flexy-discs which are little plastic discs that you can put into the magazine. They asked bands to do singles and we were really honoured to do one so we did that and then we did a split 7” with one of our good friends Spirit Adrift, a good band that we love here in the US and we did a song for that that kind of fit the theme we were doing with that as well.”

“So we had these two recorded tracks,” he says continuing. “One that was only available on a 7” and one that was only available in a magazine so we were looking for a vessel to put those two songs out on a record. So that was kind of the impotence for all of it. And then when we realised that we had these two songs and the rest of a record to fill the idea of doing one side live and one side recorded was really appealing to us because we are all super fans of ZZ Top a Texas blues band that released an album called Fandango in the seventies that was so great and did the same thing. There was a lot of motivation there and I think this has turned out really cool.”

As we talk about the motivations of the album I begin to ask Beiers about “A Conversation With Death” which is their cover of an old folk song. “It really was quite liberating to do because you don’t have so many constraints,” he explains. “Most of the versions of that song were really basic, some of them were even acapella and some were even just done with a single guitar. So it was cool because we got to do the arrangement really on our own and then Ben our lead guitar player really just nailed it the first time.”

That steers our conversation to begin talking about how Khemmis go about making a cover their own when so many bands these days just seem to deliver a cover that sounds the same as the original. “That really is a fine line,” he agrees. “That is the trick. How do you make it your own? How do you add something to it without taking something that people love away? Because “A Conversation With Death” was such a folk song for a lack of a better word, I mean it wasn’t a Black Sabbath song, so it was a lot easier to do and really you could only enhance it in many ways or even improve it.”

“When it comes to the Dio territory though that is when you are heading into that tricky territory,” he continues. “You have to tread that wisely. You have to make it yours but good luck making it better, right? Because Dio is Dio! That one was a little bit tougher.”

 

Doomed Heavy Metal is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.