AN INTERVIEW WITH TOMI JULKUNEN OF THE MILESTONES (APRIL 2014)

Our appreciation for Finn classic rock outfit The Milestones is well known here at V1.  With the band having just released their fourth album “Higher Mountain – Closer Sun” we felt it would be rude not to catch up with guitarist Tomi Julkunen for another interview.  Enjoy.

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Tomi, many thanks for agreeing to another interview with us at VirtuosityOne, and congratulations on the release of the new Milestones album “Higher Mountain –Closer Sun”.

Thanks Andy, it’s my pleasure. Got to be happy that we are interesting enough that people want to read about us. So much competition and so many bands out there these days, even more than last time we did this.

The new album to my ears is bigger and better than its rather excellent predecessor “Devil In Me”. It seems the band are pretty fired up and motivated right now, is that a fair assessment?

Cheers, yes it is indeed! Devil In Me was a big step for us as the album before that was released 10 years earlier. On DIM we were getting back to our real sound, which is that classic rock / southern rock kinda sound. The band is more motivated than ever and that’s amazing in itself as we’ve been doing this almost 20 years now. Playing is more exciting than ever and I’m sure people who have to record or come to our show can also feel the excitement. It feels like we’re only getting started and really starting to find our own voice.

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Click to read our review

So tell us about the making of the album from start to finish, how soon after “Devil In Me”did the process begin and what happened from there?

We already started writing new songs before Devil In Me was even released. We just jammed and wrote shitload of new songs. We also played some of them live just to see how people react to them. I think we had around 30 songs to choose from. It was cool as now we had to really think which songs we could put on the album. There’s couple of really cool ones that we might do something with later on, of maybe pick a riff from one song and some other part from another song and just combine different parts from different songs.

Once again there is a very live feel to the album. Was it recorded with the band in one room or individual instruments then pieced together?

Cool, that’s what we were aiming for, to get that real live sound. It was recorded with the band in one room to get that feel. We’ve tried different kind of methods but that’s the natural one, all in the same room. Lot of people say that we sound pretty much the same live as on the record so why not, we wouldn’t be able to capture all the energy and the live feel if we recorded separately one instrument at the time. It also lot more fun to play when we’re all in the same room where you can see all the faces, smiles, nods and all that.

We have a nice cross section of material, from good time up tempo rockers like “Walking Trouble”and “Shalalalover”to more mellow moments like “Oh My Soul”and “Grateful”, what were you as a band looking for in this collection of songs and how did you go about setting the track listing?

We wanted it to be rocking and mellow record at the same time. It’s boring if every song has a same kind of tempo or feel to it. Now we have nice collection of up tempo rockers, mid tempo songs and there’s a slow acoustic one too. It’s very balanced record I think. I myself like records like that.

It was great to hear the smoking cover of Foghat’s “Drivin’Wheel”, they are a band that isn’t really that known here in Europe (Slow Ride aside) so it was nice to hear you guys paying them some dues. What led to doing this particular cover?

To be honest, I hadn’t even heard Drivin’Wheel before. I only knew we sounded bit like Foghat and that they’ve been around for ages. It was Tommi, our drummer, who came up with the idea. He played it for us and straight away we knew that it would be perfect song for us to cover. I think Tommi knows someone from Foghat or their roadie or something like that. I’m proud of our version and I think we did a great job. It’s a great song!

What guitar gear did you and Marko Kiviluoma use this time around and how do you two generally go about dividing up guitar duties on the tracks?

We used the same gear we always use; Gibson and Fender Guitars, different models. As for amps I used only my old reliable, Marshall JCM 800 from the 80’s. Marko had his Vox and Ampeg amps. Very basic stuff, some cool boutique pedal like Mad Professors but nothing too fancy. We get different sounds using different guitars with the same amps. That’s the big secret behind our sound.

What do you personally look to add to a song?

Something that compliments the vocals and Markos guitar parts. We never try to play exactly the same, that would be boring. We both have our own styles so it’s pretty cool to come up with different guitar parts. I try not to overplay or play too many solo licks while recording songs. It’s better that way, then you can add some cool licks when playing live.

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Who do you look too in guitar duos in other bands as indicators to how the two guitar thing should be done?

Obviously the guitarists in The Black Crowes, especially from Southern Harmony and Amorica era when Mark Ford was still in the band; The Rolling Stones of course, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy and so on. Those guys know how to interact between two guitars. If you have two guitarists in the band you should be able to handle both lead and rhythm parts, that makes it even more interesting to listen to.

I see you’ve got a few gigs upcoming in Scandinavia, any plans for any further afield?

Yes, the plan is to get the album out in as many countries as possible and then play gigs all over. Of course these things take time to plan and arrange. We still haven’t got any deals outside of Finland but we’re working on it at the moment. We have only one German show confirmed and that’s for 2015. But keep checking the news from our website or Facebook page.

Anything else you’d like to let us know of what’s happening with the band and other projects you have?

We have a new video coming up soon for the song Walking Trouble as it’s gonna be the next single. It was shot at one of our recent live shows. We’re planning to release two radio singles at the same time, one for rock radio and other one for more mainstream stations. We’re also planning some cool stuff for our 20th anniversary which is on September. That might include re-releasing Vol 1. as it’s impossible to get it anywhere, it’s been sold out for years and years. But we’ll see, cool stuff coming up anyway.

Tomi, thanks for your time.

No problem at all, thank you. Looking forward to the next round with the album number five!

AN INTERVIEW WITH BJORN LODIN OF BALTIMOORE

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One of the hardest working musicians in Sweden over the last two decades has to be Bjorn Lodin. With 12 albums under the Baltimoore banner, at least another 10 with him behind the mic for other acts and many more producer credits he’s become one of the most respected names in Scandi-rock history. We caught up with Bjorn to discuss the new Baltimoore release “Back For More”.

Bjorn, we chat again, it’s been a while since Baltimoore’s 2009 release “Quick Fix”, what have you been up to in that time?

After QF, I was asked to join Hungarian band HARD. That call came just right, I was ready for a change of scenery…

Hard took up a lot of your time over the last few years, is that now over and if so why?

Yes, it sure did. At first I was going back and forth but after about a year I moved to Budapest and set up camp there. I brought a bunch of recording stuff and guitars so I could keep working with productions I had going. I had a very nice apartment and the owner was kind enough to let me sound proof it and I made it quite useful. I produced a female Hungarian artist while I was there, recorded drums in my studio in Sweden and did the rest in Budapest. We made 2 albums with Hard, and did some live shows. It was a great adventure, and sure wasn’t something I would have imagined doing but after a year and a half away from my family I called it. We’re still in touch but right now I’m focused on Baltimoore. If there’ll be another record with me and Hard, it won’t happen anytime soon.

Ok, the new album “Back For More”, when did work commence on it?

I love writing songs and wanted to make a 3rd Hard album, so I started writing stuff while still living in Budapest, and made some demos. The songs I came up with wasn’t what Hard was all about… I wrote most of the songs for the other 2 albums and tried to get some of my vibe in there… I guess I took it too far this time.  Anyway, that’s what I do so, I still liked what I’d come up with and decided to do them with Baltimoore. So with none of my new songs suitable for a new Hard album, the idea of a new album skidded to a halt. I went home for X-mast 2011 and tracked some drums and bass with Hempo and Weine, then back to Budapest for another 3 months before I wrapped it up and moved back to Sweden.

Did you have any other musicians lined up or in mind from the start?

Yes, I tracked lead guitar with János Szücs in Budapest, and Hempo (Hilden – drums) was on for a while but he got a severe back problem so he had to step down. He’s had some surgery now and is doing better. Mankan (Sedenberg) was also on for a while, to play rhythm guitar, but it turned out to be too difficult due to workload and logistics. Anyway, when I came back to Sweden I first made my Swedish solo album ready – that I’d been working on for 10 years, and then got Klas Anderhell in to track the final drums. It’s been a curvy stretch…

Mats Attaque.

Mats Attaque.

What was the catalyst to getting Mats Attaque on board; I believe you two have previous history?

I realised in order to get this done I needed a guitar player who played a lot like me – but better. Yes, we were in a band together in the mid 80’s, the band prior to Baltimoore. Several of the early Baltimoore songs came about around that time. We also grew up in the same area and share a lot of rhythm. He’s got a great voice and guitar tone and he’s influenced me and my playing for sure. I had been meaning to look him up many times but… Anyway, I called him and he was available. He turned out to be perfect for this. Made my day!

When did rest of the band join and why where they picked?

Rather than being ‘picked’ they were politely asked to join and be ready to take the abuse J

At first, we weren’t gonna use organ – only twin guitars, but after Örjan Fernkvist and I had a session with the songs there was no turning back. Örjan and I go way back and he’s been on several recordings with me over the years. He even played on the first Hard album. Weine (Johansson) was the first guy I asked. He’s been in the band since 1991, with the exception for Quick Fix, where Björn Lindkvist was playing bass.

We should probably point out that back in the mid-late 80s you signed a solo deal but called it Baltimoore, not Bjorn Lodin.  12 albums in do you think this has been a help or a hindrance? Do fans not get upset with line-up changes?

The band I was in with Mats – Ready Steady, were demoing for a label. That fell through and I was asked to do a solo album. At 23 years old, it didn’t sit well with me going solo. I wanted to pursue the opportunity, especially since it was Scandinavia’s biggest label at the time, but not as ‘Björn Lodin’. I made 2 albums with the same producer and he had a clear vision of how it should sound and I really had no say… I’m glad I didn’t, it turned out very good – despite I was rather ‘unmanageable’ at the time J. However, it wasn’t the sound or approach I had in my head and that’s why I’ve re-recorded many of the early songs.

As far as fans and line-up changes go… Not really…maybe in the beginning people were confused, thinking this was a ‘normal’ band, but by now I think they have gotten used to it. Hell, I’d even replace myself if the right singer comes along!

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So what’s on the new album? Tell our readers about the 10 tracks and why you think they are worthy enough to be released?

-It’s 10 of the best songs I’ve written J. Big credit to Mats for stirring the pot the way he did! I feel this record is just right. It sums up what Baltimoore’s music is all about. We tried our best, like we always do…this time – in my book, we nailed it.

This was all recorded at your home studio right?

Yes, except some guitar tracking that we did online.

This album is probably the band heaviest since the Nikolo Kotzev days, there’s a nice bark to it, it sounds great and Mats is on fire.  How do you keep the energy and consistency so high in the bands long running history?

I feed off others. After a few years trying to get a steady line-up, forming a band etc. I gave up – way too many compromises involved, making the creative process suffer. I decided to do my music this way. I know it might look as an unconventional way of playing rock music… I’ve certainly answered this question many times over the years, but after I sobered up back in 1994, I decided to just go with it.

When I first teamed up with Nikolo Kotzev in 1992, we had no choice but to produce, record and mix ourselves. I realized then that it was the only way to do this. I didn’t want to rely on anyone making my music ready, so after we split up I went at it myself…figuring out how to record and mix. I’m learning new things every day.

REAL DRUMS!

REAL DRUMS!

What were you looking for sonically in this release?  Does the music take your ears where you need to go or do you dictate the sound from the off?

I’ve been looking for this sound for a long time J. Once the songs have passed pre-prod, you need to make the recording a certain way in order to be mixed in a certain way. This is the difficult part! I’m no friend of the plastic and artificial sound from drum samples. I don’t care how good the song is – if I hear a sampled drum in there I turn it off. Once the songs were arranged and ready to be recorded – they already had the sound. Of course it can be mixed different ways, but the main part of the sound is in the arrangements…how the drummer plays, how hard the strings on the rhythm guitar was hit etc. Putting the final make-up on and making the final tweaks in the mixing took a long time but it was all down hill.

Lyrically where were you looking this time round?

Well, I’ve always strived to improve my writing in English, and sometimes manage better than others… My lyrics are basically about me and what’s around me, my outlook on things. I vent in my songs. I also invite other writers sometimes and this time my friend Theresia Scher wrote one song and we co-wrote another. Writing in English is difficult!

The album has a digital only release, is this a result of changes in the industry and if so how do you feel about that?

Yes, it’s the only thing – if any, that made any sense this time. I don’t do my music with the music industry in mind. But sure, this is the worst possible business adventure one can think of. It will change, eventually…

You are an ardent voice against Spotify etc, is the music scene ultimately doomed?

Na, musicians/artists will always find a way and some will just stop what they’re doing – people in general are the ones being fukked in the ass J. Spotify, YouTube, Google and the likes (if they don’t change their approach towards song writers and artists – and why would they?) will end up with legacy catalogues and mainstream stuff. That business model simply doesn’t make any sense to a working musician to be part of. But hey, we can always go on tour and sell t-shirts, right?!

You seem to know everyone in the Swedish music scene, yet you don’t follow the pack and like unearthing fresh talent, why aren’t you taking the easy buck and doing what is expected of someone with your reputation?

I don’t think there’s an easy buck anywhere… And as far as the pack travels, I guess I’m still trying to find mine J. There are many different ways to do music. But being a musician/composer on the path of exploring and figure out what’s within is probably not the smartest career move. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Too much navel contemplating left to do!

Looking back over the 12 albums do you have any regrets? 

None whatsoever! It takes time to figure things out.

I know you love the stage so has the limited touring activity with Baltimoore been something you’d have liked to have done more with, or are you comfortable with it’s predominantly studio only status?

Yes, there’s nothing like being on stage with a good band. It hasn’t been in the stars for this band, something I’ve given a lot of thought…and the logistics in members being all over the place hasn’t helped. This time around we’re not too far away from each other and I hope we can set something up for later this year.

What next for the band and yourself for 2014 and beyond?

Well, at the moment I’m mixing and co-producing Thomas Larsson’s upcoming album. I’ve also cracked open the legacy Baltimoore albums and are preparing them for a new mix and some new overdubs. It’s about 70 songs, so it will take some time…hopefully they will be out in 2014. Some videos are in the making…

I’m also doing a sort of country album with original songs together with another line-up. Not sure that I’ll do the hick-up thing with my voice though J.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Not really. I hope people give this album a shot and that they’ll find something they like in there!

Bjorn, many thanks for your time, it has been a pleasure.

Thanks!

Order Baltimoore – Back For More at:

OPPOSING MOTION INTERVIEW

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We recently caught up with Kevin Deplanche and Joe McGurk of the promising progressive metal outfit Opposing Motion who saw their albums “Laws Of Motion” released earlier in 2013 via Lion Music.

Many thanks for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on the birth of “Laws Of Motion”.

Many thanks to you and VirtuosityOne for your interest in OPPOSING MOTION’s music!

Can you give us an overview of the bands background and how you’ve built up to the release of “Laws Of Motion”?

Kevin: OPPOSING MOTION was created when Joe and I met around a few beers in late 2005 and found out we had more than a few common musical influences rooted in early Malmsteen, Blind Guardian and Stratovarius.  We quickly started writing original material, pushing each other and integrating more prog-metal influences as we went along until we decided to record a-5 tracks E.P called “the Illustration” which was released in mid-2010, bringing in French singer Ludovic DeSa. This E.P received great reviews both in the UK and internationally and we quickly got given the opportunity to record a full debut album. “Laws of Motion” was written and recorded in late 2011 until mid-2012 and by this time the full line up (with my brother David on bass) was confirmed, we all could participate to the writing process. We were extremely excited to land a good first album deal with leading prog label Lion Music who released “Laws of Motion” in May 2013.

Joe: It may seem that we have taken our time with this release, having formed when we did, but things have never really felt that way.  It always takes longer than you anticipate getting a stable line-up that fits the direction of the music and we wanted to guarantee that we took our time and were happy with the tracks.  The end result has certainly been worth the wait as far as we are concerned.

How does being a half English/half French band work out and what do you think both nationalities bring to the band?

Kevin: it brings a lot of trouble during international football games! World cups are pretty problematic as it means we don’t speak to each other for a few weeks…

With modern producing and recording tools, we can work very efficiently and we speak pretty much everyday to discuss things surrounding the band. Organising gigs and video/photo shoots is a bit more demanding in terms of logistics but so far we have managed to make it work pretty well. The next step is to organise some gigs and we are working on this!

Joe: The Six Nations Rugby has kept me happy for a fair few years though, but in all seriousness I think geographical spread within bands is actually quite common in the prog genre.  This may be due to the fact that it is not easy to find musicians who firstly enjoy this style and secondly can actually play it.  We have the usual banter between England and France but it is all good fun.

As a four piece you cover a lot of ground in terms of musical textures, density and overall expression.  How do you go about finding the Opposing Motion sound?

Kevin: The concept for OPPOSING MOTION was to not confine ourselves to a specific genre in an attempt to digest as many influences from our musical heroes and create the album we would have liked to listen to ourselves as metal fans first and foremost. We listen to and play a wide range of music and, although OPPOSING MOTION’s music is deeply rooted in the metal scene, we love to explore different sound textures and arrangements akin to what the band ARK did with their two albums. From the reviews of “Laws of Motion” we saw, this approach can maybe be a bit “daunting” at first for the listener as the album does require some time before it opens up….and that ‘s where the real journey starts!

Joe: It is not something we actively sought but I reckon if you get passionate musicians together and let individual influences merge then a unique output will happen.  We always wanted to write songs that we wanted to listen to rather than conform to a set style and it seems that this has given us a unique sound which is great in my opinion.

I feel you have a quite unique sound in a lot of aspects, there is plenty for fans of other bands to latch onto but the end product is original. Is this originality a help or a hindrance in the grand scheme of building a career?

Kevin: We are extremely pleased to be noticed for our originality but as you mention…in the grand scheme of things, and in terms of developing a following, the complexity of our music may play against a rapid career development. To be extremely honest, we do not think too much about this yet. I think we would be very happy to slowly build a following of fans that appreciate and possibly look for this certain musical depth instead of taking a quick and easy route that may not fulfil us fully as musicians.

Joe: Yes, I guess there is always a mixture of responses, you are either criticised for not sounding like you should or similarly for not being original.  We will certainly keep trying to improve and keep doing what we feel is the right path for the band and our music.

On the album’s creation how does Opposing Motion generally construct a song?

Kevin: “Laws of Motion” is the fruit of almost 5 years work and, although all four of us had the opportunity to bring its own personality into each track, many tracks were in advanced demo stages by the time the track list for the album was finalised. Most of them started as simple jams between Joe and myself, then later developed into full songs. Others like “Las Lagrimas del Diablo” were pretty much brought by Joe on his own. Generally speaking, one of us will bring a theme, a riff, a rhythmic part or even a full proposed track structure and we all take it from there, bouncing ideas to each other to try to construct a full track. This often leads us to strange places and is at the same time a great technical challenge where parts can get pretty crazy like on “The Fallen Opera”…this is what makes OPPOSING MOTION so much fun!

Joe: As Kev says, we like to initially collate parts to lay down a skeleton, whether that is orchestral or around a big riff or chorus.  We then work around this and make sections more complex but never going away from the main melody.  Verses and bridges then seem to fall into place and before you know it, section by section, we have a track!

Do you work on more than one track at once or prefer to focus on the one task at hand?

Kevin: Absolutely! Joe is an extremely prolific writer and at times can send us pretty much a full 10 min of new music per day! I myself like to try to channel this creativity and prefer to focus on 2-3 tracks maximum at the same time to keep ideas fresh when hearing new material for the first time. I like to sit behind the kit and do a few takes without knowing the track, finding the most natural grooves before making them more complex as I get more familiar to the material or suggest structural changes etc.

Joe:  I think the others like to work on one or two at a time but I am guilty of getting ahead of the plan and carried away at times J

Can you give us any examples of how a writing method changed for the tracks on “Laws Of Motion”?

Kevin: As I mentioned before, I would say that most tracks on “Laws of Motion” already existed before we decided to record the album – even in a very early incarnation for example a simple chord progression of a symphonic part (on the track Laws of Motion), tracks that we had written after the recording of the EP and were there at 99% (Labyrinth of Mirrors), or early tracks that we reworked from the ground up (Echoes of the Soul). So most of the hard work was done. The Fallen Opera was a different beast though…Joe brought this ambitious track pretty late in the process and presented it to us as a full progression. It sounded so epic that we decided to include it in “Laws of Motion” and this is the first track were all four of us had equal input in terms of ideas, lyrics, structure etc. We are very pleased by the final result and it is a great taste of the things to come as we write more tracks as a full band.

Joe:  I agree with Kev but if I had to single one out that was different I would go with the title track.  Usually we have too much happening and too many ideas but the title track of the album was written differently than the others as we built it up rather than reduced down.

Please give us a track-by-track rundown of the album with your thoughts on each track.

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Deus ex Machina:  A short album opener to get you to know what you’re dealing with! Symphonic arrangements backed by fast guitars and complex time signatures.  What Deus represents is an excellent introduction to OPPOSING MOTION’s music and sets the pace before linking in with Forever’s Edge – the single of the album

Forever’s Edge: Most definitely the easiest way to enter our sound. Forever’s Edge is a classic power-prog track that featured already on our “Illustration” E.P and has always earned us glowing comments. The track is fairly straightforward by Opposing Motion’s standards and gives Ludo, our singer, the spotlight. The opening solo shows some Malmsteen inspiration while the fast drums beat is a tribute to the track “Red sharks” by the mighty CRIMSON GLORY.

Labyrinth of Mirrors: One of the strongest tracks of the album, Labyrinth is exactly that…a tortuous track that leans a lot towards early FATES WARNING material with John Arch, alternating four to the floor and faster sections with many odd time signatures during the breaks. Ludo shows his versatility on this track, from spoken parts to high screams, while Joe’s solo is pure virtuosity, cleverly linking the two main sections before the finale. A track that is strongly reminiscent of early SHADOW GALLERY, one of our favourite bands.

Las Lagrimas Del Diablo: Another track that has been with us for a few years but, contrary to others, not a single note has been changed through the years as it felt complete since day one. Ludo’s strong appreciation of Roy Khan can be heard here and the track itself is not too far from the tasteful ballads of early KAMELOT albums. The presence of a ballad is sometimes seen as a cliché in a metal album. For us it was a necessary breather for the listener given the density of the album.

Rites of Passage: Probably the most progressive (and complex!) track of the album.  Rites can sometimes be seen as a musician’s capital sin where technique and complex time changes take over the overall melody akin to what was doing a band called POWER OF OMENS…but we do like to think that there are enough melodic hooks in the track to grab the listener. The track is certainly led by vocals and features a strong chorus and very personal lyrics. The heavy use of synths and more measured pace brings it closer to prog rock than metal and shows our love to this scene: ELP, WAKEMAN, YES and later bands from the Neo prog movement and bands like PALLAS, ARENA, ARAGON, MARILLION.

Echoes of the Soul: Raw power! Echoes is one of our oldest tracks, put together in probably just a few hours of frantic jams. This track is more akin to power-prog and explodes from the beginning into a frantic pace, which slows down only during the first half of each verse. Echoes brought us many great reviews for its strong chorus (possibly leaning towards THY MAJESTIE) and its very complex instrumental section, reminiscent of the great SYMPHONY X, where the bass ostinato is actually the driving force. A track that we cannot wait to play live…

Laws of Motion: The second breather of the album, the title track is an atmospheric pause led by vocals, orchestral arrangements and subtle guitar parts. In hindsight, we probably could have developed this track, which shines from its chorus, into a full piece. This track is musically strongly linked with the instrumental track “the Illustration” from our first EP, which put the band into the spotlight in 2010 because of the very intricate parts.

The Fallen Opera: The final track and “piece de resistance”! The Fallen Opera was originally near 15 mins long but we decided to cut it down to a more reasonable 10 mins to make sure we could nail all the arrangements. We wanted to have a go at producing an epic track, which would contain all the trademark elements of OPPOSING MOTION – strong guitar-driven melodies supported by discrete orchestral arrangements and complex rhythmic layering. The Fallen Opera is a good representation of the overall direction of the band, although we want to improve further on our overall sound to make it fuller, more accessible in parts through bigger vocal hooks and riffs. The Fallen Opera is the perfect closure for “Laws of Motion” and, at the same time, the beginning of a new journey as we started writing new material in direct continuation of this track.

How does the band as a unit go about working out complex instrumental passages, “Echoes Of The Soul” for example has some very intricate changes happening.

Kevin: Yep, the instrumental section of Echoes is sure very fun to play! We build those sections though layers of instrumentation, first roughly recording what the ostinato should sound like as we imagine it then working out the precise time changes via putting down time signatures etc. Then I would work out a rhythmic progression, knowing roughly how the symphonic parts will sound and propose to others who will each work out a theme for the progression and find their own way to count the part. We meet up to try various directions and usually after 2-3 iterations we find the one that we feel make us “lock in” usually through smooth resolution of a rhythmic displacement like in Echoes and the end of Fallen Opera.

Joe: Yes it can be tough as usually a pattern will be either on guitar or drums first and others have to follow and think of something to add.  For example the main pattern on the EP title track was on drums and guitars had to mimic.  For Echoes of the soul the passage was on guitars and the drums had to find a creative space…with the aim that it lifts up the track!

Do all band members read music and if not how do you convey progressions to each other?

Kevin: We have a great mixture of personalities in that sense – Joe and Ludo have more of a classical training background while Dave and I are self taught but have extensive stage/studio experience in various bands across many genres and have developed good listening skills. Everybody in the band has a great musical ear and it is very easy to communicate chord progressions to each other. We are all equipped with pretty decent home studio gear to bounce ideas to each others and personally I do like to see written parts for drums to understand and ride the many time signature changes that OPPOSING MOTION tracks can have. For a track like Rites of Passage, I absolutely had to write each part before tracking it!

Can you give us a run down of what gear the band uses and any endorsement deals you may have?

Kevin: No one has any formal endorsement so far. For drums, I use a set of Yamaha Beech Custom Absolute series in 8/10/12/14/16 configuration with fusion size shells and a Taye Studio Maple snare in 14×6. Cymbals are a mixture of Sabian HHX and Zildjian A series with Istanbul rock hats. I use  Axis A longboards double pedals. On bass, Dave plays a Musicman Stingray 3 EQ 4 strings. On Guitars, Joe plays ESP LTD MH Series, Boss pedals, Hughes and Kettner valve amp, Ernie Ball strings. Ludz loves his Neumann and Sennheiser microphones

The reviews I have seen have all been pretty stellar, has the album been widely liked?

Kevin: I must say we have been extremely pleased by the reviews so far. I can remember 2 out of the 20 or so reviews we have noticed that were a bit tougher on us…but that’s part of the game! Those encouraging reviews by big names in the prog world are a great boost as a new band on the international scene but even more important is the feedback from the metal fans and here we were delighted by the messages we received. The album seems to have found its place on people’s playlists and we had some great feedback there too! Echoes of the Soul and Forever’s Edge seem to be hot favourites!

Joe:  We cannot complain, the reception has been very pleasing and we just hope to keep going and keep improving.

You’ve recently released a video for “Forever’s Edge”, tell us about it.

Kevin: We are extremely excited about this video. The story line is quite dark but very original; we left it deliberately very open to the viewer’s interpretation even though we have something very precise in our minds…the location – a 19th century painter studio was absolutely spot on in terms of atmosphere and I am sure the video will make a lot of people discover the band. Forever’s Edge was the obvious choice for the video as it displays the most accessible side of our music.

Joe:  This is our first video and I was really unsure what to expect.  The filming was great fun and the end product is exactly what we hoped for.  Hopefully this is the first of many…please check it out!

What do you see ahead for Opposing Motion in 2013 and beyond?

Kevin: A lot of great things! We are already sketching ideas for a new album and we are raising the bar in terms of music writing, taking into account the very constructive feedback from the press and fans alike. This time around, in LION MUSIC, we know we are backed by truly passionate people, which will undoubtedly bring out the best in us. We will keep pushing “Laws of Motion” for the rest of 2013 and early 2014 and try to follow it up very quickly with an even stronger release to strengthen our following in the prog- metal community. This should lead us to start gigging in the next year or so….OPPOSING MOTION is built for the stage!

Joe:  We are working very hard on a new album, it will be bigger and better for sure.  We are also working hard to take things on the road and on stage which will be an exciting time indeed.

Anything else you’d like to tell the readers of virtuosityone.com?

Kevin: If you have not heard our music yet..come check us out! Any prog metal fan leaning towards the likes of FATES WARNING, VANDEN PLAS, CIRCUS MAXIMUS, ASPERA should enjoy “Laws of Motion” after a few spins 😉

Joe:  And thank you for taking the time to find out a bit more about us, we hope you enjoy the album and keep an eye on us over the next few years.

Many thanks for your participation.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS JIDELL

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Marcus Jidell will be for many be known as the guitarist in Evergrey and a former member of Royal Hunt.  To others he will be known as simply a great guitarist, something his debut solo album “Pictures From A Time Traveller” is testament to.  We caught up with Marcus to discuss his new album in some detail and try and get an insight into the albums creation and what being a musician means to Marcus.

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Marcus, many thanks for agreeing to this interview.  You have your debut solo album coming out in August, after many years on the scene how come it has taken this long to make a solo album?

From the beginning it wasn’t meant to be an solo album. I started to write songs just for fun. Since I started to learn music I have always been writing music in periods and the reason I started this project was that I wanted to see if could write instrumental music and make it interesting for me to listen to.

This album has been written and recorded under a long period of time, I started to write the songs and do the demos about 8 years ago. 5 years ago I started to record drums for the songs with Andreas Johansson, right after that I worked for a month with the songs but didn’t get the feel and sound that I was looking for. I was working by myself and didn’t have the knowledge and studio equipment that I needed so I just got tired of it and stopped the process.  In between touring I continued to work with other studio productions such as Royal Hunt and Evergrey and I actually got a little better in how to record and mix music.

One year ago I found the old recordings and listened to the songs and felt that, wow this is good!! So I started to work on the songs again to finish the recordings that Andreas had played drums on. We used the drums we recorded 5 years ago on 3 of the songs but we had to re-record drums on Huldra to get the groove right. That had nothing to do with how Andreas played but how it was recorded.

While on tour with Evergrey, Hannes Van Dahl and I talked about if maybe he could play on some songs on the album to, so when we found the time we did. Hannes plays drums on two of the songs and did (of course) a great job!

 What struck me about the album is that it is very strong, not only musically but structurally as well; this isn’t your archetypical guitar album.

I don’t think so but my intention wasn’t to make a typical guitar album, I just wanted to write good music. I wanted to make an instrumental album that was more than just shred. I wanted to make compositions that were interesting to listen to even if you’re not a guitar player. I love to listen to instrumental classical music from composers like Debussy, Stravinsky,Mozart , Elgar, Beethoven amongst others and I got inspired by the way these guys arrange music. But then again you also need some Blues feel and Rock ´n Roll to make this kind of music come alive and not just be intellectual. I am very emotional when I play and listen to music, either it moves me or it doesn’t and if it moves me I like it! J

It says in the albums promo literature that you wrote each song to depict a very visual interpretation, I notice a lot of the titles refer to places, events or ideas, where these titles the initial seed for the musical ideas or did you hatch onto a visual idea from the music?

A song like “Huldra” for example started with me playing the main theme on a piano one day. I love folk music and this theme is inspired from Swedish folk music. Anyway, when I heard myself play this melody I started to think about the Huldra or “Skogsrået” as she is called in Swedish. Thinking of this old folklore figure inspired me to finish the song and everything came quite natural as I had the story in my head.

I think that most of the time when I come up with something that I like I try to feel what it sounds like to be able to build up a “story”. It’s so much more fun to write music if I am trying to tell something with it.  But it doesn’t matter if the listener hears another story because that’s what it’s about you see, I want to inspire peoples imagination and creativity with my music.

I think fans of both Evergrey and Royal Hunt will find much to enjoy here, was this important to you?

Of course I want the fans of Royal Hunt and Evergrey to enjoy my music but I have to follow my own taste and feelings when I write music. If I don’t it wouldn’t be honest I think.

Right now I just want to make another album I have a lot of music in me that wants to come out.  I just hope that I will find the time for it so it doesn’t take another 8 years and I also hope that people will like this album and buy it so I can afford to work on the next one. J

You say you began work on the album a few years ago, but put it on hold due to lack of studio experience, what specific things do you mean?

For example I didn’t have the knowledge how to mix it by myself. Another thing was that I didn’t have the equipment required – Preamps and these kinds of things. I have been doing a lot of research in “sounds” the last 5-8 years and that finally paid off for me. Now I am producing and recording all kinds of things in the Damage Done Studio so next album will be so much easier to make for me. It still takes a very long time to write good music though .

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Can you give us a track by track breakdown of how you view the album?

Arctica  

Arctica is the more “modern” song for me with the fast double kicks and the energy in the drums.  The fast double kicks illustrate the feeling of being chased by a polar bear I guess. It started when I watched a documentary about the Arctic winter and how the animals tried to survive in that extremely hard environment.  I also got inspired by how  a place can be so beautiful and at the same time so mean, cold and harsh.
Huldra (Ruler of the Forest)

Inspired by Swedish folk music with a twist of Doom metal.  Svante Henryson is playing an amazing cello solo on this song. I wanted this song to be very suggestive and groovy at the same time.  So in short I would say: Hendrix meets an old Swedish folk musician ( with a special taste for DOOM 🙂 and starts to jam.

Tesla World System

Nicola Tesla got the reputation of being the true “mad scientist” and what can be more inspiring for writing a piece of music!? For me he is a man that deserves a little more attention then what he had. One of the visions he had with the Tesla World System was that music should be able to be spread around the world.. I listened to King Crimson the other day and kind of realized that there are some elements of them in this song.

Rei Zan

This song was supposed to be on the Japan press of the Evergrey Glorious Collision album. But we never signed a deal in Japan so it never came out. I have been in Japan a few times with Royal Hunt and this song is inspired by the landscape there. Mountains and volcanoes such as Mount Fuji for example.

El-Amarna (Ruins of Akhetaton)

I read this book about pharaoh Echnaton and the city he built.  He tried to build a place where peace should reign but of course it didn’t work out the way he planned. I still hope that there will be peace in the world some day but I guess not under my lifetime.

Space Dog

If you listen to the intro of this song you might get a feeling of how it felt for Lajka ( the first dog in space) to be thrown out in space whiteout being asked or properly informed ( it’s very hard to explain these things for a dog )..

Wedding Song

A song I composed a long time ago for my elder brother and his wife that me and my father performed at their wedding.

You have some guest musicians helping out on the album, how did they come onboard and where the specific chosen for them to perform on for a particular reason?

I know a lot of musicians of course since I have been doing this for a time now but my aim was always to find the ones that could make the music grow and do something that I wouldn’t do but still like. I learned so much from doing this album and there has been a lot of headache as well but in the end it came out as a quite decent thing.

You even have your Dad playing cello, what does he think of your music?

You have to ask him, I guess, but he tells me that it sounds nice when I play it for him. But then again he is a very nice and humble man so maybe he just don’t want to hurt my feelings. 😉 No seriously, my father has always been interested in my music since I became a pro and we talk a lot about different music when we meet. Most of the time we discuss classical music and Jazz though.

Is “Pictures From A Time Traveller” a good indicator of the kind of music you like to create?

Yes I would say so but if I had recorded it today it would have been different.  This album has opened a door for me and I want to continue this journey for a long time. I think that if I will have the opportunity to do another album that one will be more “old school” sound wise but then again you never know until you start the writing process. For me it is very important that music is emotional. The technical stuff is only relevant if it adds emotions to the music. I get very bored when I listen to musicians that just play phrases and things that they have learned by practicing.

I think that it is important to create in the moment now and then. Take the plunge you know!Sometimes it will sound bad but sometimes you will find things you never thought you could come up with and that’s what I live for I guess.

Going back to your childhood, did you have a rich musical upbringing?

There was always music around in my home. My father says that I sang before I could talk.

What were the first bands you liked?

Saxon, Iron Maiden when I was 6 years I guess and then I started to listen to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and so on.  I remember the first time I heard Dio, it was the Holy Diver album and I thought it was the best thing I ever heard.  Then of course Yngwie Malmsteen, he was the reason I started to practice extremely much because I read that he did that.  I have been listening to so much different music when I grew up. As a teenager I listened a lot to Metallica, Miles Davis,m Charlie Parker, Bach, Elvis, Santana, Joe Satriani, Yngwie, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, Folk Music from around the world and so much more different music and genres, I have always been very interested in trying to understand all kinds of music. As long as it touches my heart I like it.

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What made you take up guitar?

The sound of distortion!! The first time I heard a distorted guitar I knew that I had to learn to make these sounds.

When do you realise you had enough skill to make a living from the instrument?

For me it never was a choice I just had to play music.

What guitars, amps and effects did you use on the album?

Marshall Amps. JVM 210H, 900 Modified by Tommy Folkesson and a Marshall Plexi.
Pedals like: Ibanez Tube Screamer DLX, EP Booster, Bigg Muff, Hot Cake, MXR phase 90, YJM308, Cry Baby and a lot more.
Caparison guitars, Gibson, Fender, W.Carter guitars.

What do you personally look for in a guitar and amp?

I want the amp and guitar to have dynamics and warmth.

Do you have a preferred mic’ing technique?

No, I try different things a every time. I try to find the sound when I record so I don’t have to do so much in the mix later. For me it’s about “playing in the music” while recording. If I manage to do that it usually works out good. It’s more about the performance then about the things you use actually.

Looking ahead, what do you have planned for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

If I can make a wish I really hope that this album will sell good so that I can do some live gigs with the material!!!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I want to thank Lion Music for releasing this album and please check out my Facebook if you want more info:

https://www.facebook.com/marcusjidellofficial

Marcus, many thanks for your time.

Thank YOU very much!!

/ Marcus

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS DOCKER OF DOCKER’S GUILD

Having come up with a debut of supreme class, DOCKER’S GUILD mastermind Douglas Docker took time out from a busy schedule to answer questions on the creation of “The Mystic Technocracy”, his musical background and future endeavors.

Hi Douglas, thanks for agreeing to this interview, how are you doing today?

Very well! Thanks for having me here J

The debut album from Docker’s Guild has just been released by Lion Music. Getting a great review from us at V1 how has the album been doing elsewhere?

Yes, your review was one of the best and also one of the first reviews to arrive. Thanks for that! Most reviews since then have been of the same standard, the response has been overwhelming, which is a little humbling! I am very happy and very proud of how things are going.

Let’s go back to the start of your musical career, tell us about your musical upbringing and how your journey has led to the creation and formation of Docker’s Guild?

That is very long story, so I’ll try to keep it short. I started when I was 7, first as a classical pianist then violinist, until I graduated in classical piano in the ‘80s. In the meantime I discovered rock and lived the golden age of those amazing days. I eventually found myself in Hollywood where I joined Biloxi, an AOR band that had lots of success in the early ‘90s. Later I returned to school and became a researcher in ethnomusicology with a specialization in Thai ritual music and demon worship by Thai musicians. It’s a very metal thing to get involved with!

Docker’s Guild was born in 1990-1991 when I wrote most of the songs for Season 1. I kept writing and developing the story until it expanded into a 5 album project. It never came out because I never found the right partners, the general reaction in those days was rather scornful, and the musical environment very hostile to this kind of stuff. So I waited. Four years ago I finally decided the technology and the musical environment had become ripe to bring this project to its full conclusion.

“The Mystic Technocracy” is quite a body of work, a lot of intricate elements; lush arrangements and a big sound yet still very accessible with it.  How did the vision for the album come about?

Musically, I wrote the music I’d like to hear out there and rarely find. My main influences cover three directions: AOR (Journey, Asia), prog (Yes, ELP, early Dream Theatre, Threshold), and some more eclectic flavours (David Bowie, Duran Duran, JM Jarre and The Rockets). The music is complex, much more than it sounds, but it’s packaged into an AOR wrapping, so those that just want to enjoy great melodies don’t have to dig too deep. But for those that like aural challenges, there is a lot of intellectual musical playing under the vocals. Odd meters, atonal sections, non-triadic harmonies. A lot of thought was put into all this.

Can you give our readers a basic premise of the concept of the album?

The main concept is the result of a simple observation that has been hounding me since I was 20. Why have people been murdering each other for 4000 years in the name a God no one has ever seen and for three religions that are supposed to be founded on love and compassion. Something is just not right. I plugged this premise into a science fiction story and the rest developed from there.

This is season 1 of a 5 part story correct?

Yep, with a few surprises along the way 😉

Are the future season’s written or just ideas in your head at this point?

Musically, Season 2 is about 70% written, season 4 and 5 about 20%. Season 3 is going to be very obscure and experimental, it is planned but not written yet. Regarding the story, I know the beginning, the middle and the end in great detail, some parts still need to be fleshed out, but I am very clear about how and where I want to bring this.

The assembled cast of musicians is highly impressive, yet unlike a lot of albums which have a lot of guest musicians it seems you had a clear vision of what you wanted from each artist.  It all works quite fluidly, how did you go about dividing up the parts and deciding on who would suit what?

Thank you, it’s been a real honour to have these great musicians and singers on board. Well, first of all I like to give myself rules, little challenges and see where they take me. The first rule was that the singers all had to be AOR stars, I wanted to see what they could do with prog. That gave a highly melodic approach to the whole thing. Most of the musicians were chosen in a similar way. I also let each singer choose on which song they wanted to sing, that helped in making each voice fit the part.

Give our readers an overview of the other musicians involved and also perhaps a little of what you felt they uniquely gave the album?

I was able to convince most of the artists just through the strength of the preproduction demos. I didn’t know any of them basically. The exceptions being Tony Franklin, with whom I had worked in LA in the ‘90s, Magnus Jacobson who is great friend of mine and who introduced me to Goran Edman. The rest was hard work and a lot of typing!

I am very happy with all their performances; they contributed well beyond the call of duty. The rhythm section is thundering, Guthrie’s guitar is just unbelievable, and the singers perfect. They brought this strange mixture of metal, prog rock, AOR and intelligent pop that makes the album unique.

Was it a daunting prospect pulling in all these different performances?

Yes! I was terrified at first. The worst part of the project was opening and listening to files, I was so scared I wouldn’t like anything I heard that I often waited two days before I had the courage to listen. That said, things went incredibly smoothly, there were no technical problems and the parts were recorded rather quickly. Gregg Bissonette for example recorded his 8 songs in one single day!

Did you give the artists a blueprint of what you wanted or where they allowed to throw in a little of their own ideas?

Every single part was carefully mapped in the preproduction demos and I had charts for each instrument, but I left them some freedom, and they often added their own ideas and styles to the mix.

There’s some epic numbers on the album i.e. Darwin’s Tears, The Divine Comedy and The Secret Of DNA trilogy suite, is it easier to write a more complex number than a shorter one?

The more complex the music, the easier it is to write. Intellectual games and large scale structures are just a matter of sitting there like an architect and draw at the table. It is immensely more difficult to write e 3 minute timeless masterpiece with 3 chords. That is the real challenge, because it comes from instinct, which is much more powerful than logic.

What led to the cover of David Bowie’s “Loving The Alien”? It fits the album perfectly.

Yes it turned out real nice, I am very proud of that one. Well, I’ve loved that song since 1984, and the lyrics inspired a great deal of my own story, so I thought it was the perfect choice. That is another little rule I made: each season will have two covers, but they have to be chosen to fit the story. I didn’t write the story around the covers, it’s the other way around. It’s quite a challenge, but that’s how I like to have fun.

How did the actual recording take place your end? Do you have a home studio? Or did you do demos at home then record the proper tracks in a studio elsewhere?

Yes I have a very simple keyboard oriented preproduction studio called The Planet of Freedom Studio. All demos were recorded here, as well as final keyboard tracks, acoustic grand piano, clarinets, saxes, my vocals and all spoken voices. The special guests recorded in their own studios around the world. I then assembled everything here, but the final mix was done in England by the magic of Simon Hanahrt of Marillion and Asia fame.

Was the album recorded in running order?

Not at all. First I did all the demos, and kept all my vocals and keyboards. Then we recorded all lead vocals over the demos. The last thing were drums, bass and guitars.

Did any real nightmares take place during the albums creation?

Yes, I got screwed by a graphic artist and lost $6000… I’d rather not talk about it too much though. Thank God Carl-André Beckston saved the day with some spectacular work.

I believe a mini film for “Darwin’s Tears” is in production, when is the end product likely to be relased?

We just shot the video this weekend, and it looks awesome. It is 9 min long, and will be in a 1920s German Expressionist style, black and white and very, very creepy. It should be ready this fall if all goes well!

What other plans do you have in the pipeline for this album?

Promotion, merchandising, maybe an album release party and showcase still to be organized with some of the special guests. Then it’s on the second album which… will not be Season 2. You’ll have to wait a bit to understand this one! But it all ties up to the story.

Ok, name your top 5 favourite artists and your favourite albums…. And why?

David Bowie – any album (but let’s pick Let’s Dance). My mentor in all things, there is no one above him

The Rockets – Galactica. Obscure space rock French band that sold millions in Italy. The masters of sci fi shows and space rock.

ELP – Brain Salad Surgery. You can’t do more than that with keys no matter how hard anyone’s tried.

Yes – 90125. A production and songwriting masterpiece

Journey – Raised on Radio. Wow!

If you could take only 3 songs to a desert island what would they be?

Duran Duran – Come Undone

David Bowie – When the Wind Blows

Yes – Leave It

Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Thanks for the support! I hope you’ll like the album, it was a real labour of love 🙂

Many thanks for your time. 

Thanks you!

AN INTERVIEW WITH BOGUSLAW BALCERAK OF CRYLORD

Boguslaw Balcerak is the super talented guitarist of newcomers Crylord.  Blessed with not only formidable technique but an ear for writing a winning song, the debut “Blood Of The Prophets” is one of the surprise releases of the year and a contender for debut of the year and a release we heartily recommend.  We caught up with Boguslaw to discuss the album and his history in depth.

Your debut release Crylord – Blood Of The Prophets hit the streets in October.  It’s an exceptional slice of metal. Please tell us how the band came together as you have some other very talented musicians with you.

It was not easy because in Poland it is hard to find good musicians in this genre. As for the rhythm section I asked my musical friends :  Kamil Wyzinski (bass and sound engineering) and Marcin Kwasny on drums. These guys provide a good rhythm section and they have great musical feeling. At the end I met Lukasz  Dybalski who is a keyboardist  and he just played my arrangements for this album.

The album is home to 3 fine vocalists in Carsten Schulz, Mark Boals and Goran Edman. How did you get these 3 vocalists involved and what sort of freedom did they have with the material?

I arranged melodic lines for each song and backing vocals. Of course, singers sometimes get swept away by emotions and sang them more in their own way, but it was so good that I decided not to be exactly as I wanted. Each of them has added something unique and it was good.

Especially Göran sometimes strongly modulate melodies, sometimes even like soul style. He never sings the same way twice, if a fragment is repeated he recorded it again, and always in different way. He made his own and amazing versions of choirs.

I think you did a nice job of picking songs to suit each vocalist’s strengths. Was this intentional or something that just worked out?

Their vocal skills are so high that I’m sure that each of them can sing no matter which song on the album, but obviously I thought about it who is to sing which song and reported to a concrete proposal.

When did you begin writing the music that appears on ‘Blood Of The Prophets’ and over what timescale was the music completed?

Music was written in 2008 and then it was the beginning of recordings.

Changing the recording studio and long mixing was the reasons why the album was ready until spring of 2011.

Can you remember what the first track you wrote was?

The first composition on the album was “Blind Dance” which is an instrumental song. It was the time when I was just dreaming about great vocalist and composing instrumental music.

Whilst there are elements of other bands, there is a very definite original voice within the material as well.  It’s an exciting sounding record, full of energy and vigour; I guess it must be a relief to finally get something out to the public?

I’m glad you think so. It is hard to do something original in neo-classical music, because it seems that everything has already been done by someone else. If the material is fresh is to say that it can appeal to people. It is important to me because for years I wanted to record my own music. I did not think, however, that it would be possible to record an album with such good singers.

Often I meet with the opinion that “Blood of the Prophets” is not revealing. Probably its true but it appears a lot of albums worse than “Blood of the Prophets”  have better reviews, and nobody there, no negative comments that it’s not revealing, though it is.

Your guitar work is exceptional, a superb technique yet with a strong dose of emotion in your play.  Can you tell us who your influences are and what you believe you have taken from their style and added to your own ideas to make your own voice?

I think the emotions are not only in the solo parts but also in the vocal lines and in the whole music.

Of course, Malmsteen as the biggest inspiration for me is still the most important. It’s a beautiful example of emotional music. There is no sense, however, to be another clone of Malmsteen. My playing is contaminated with Malmsteen’s style, but was expanded with a lot of elements such as: string skipping, more arpeggios, tapping, picking with the wide gauge of fingers, chromatic scales etc..

For years however I have been interested in guitar technique not only Malmsteen’s. Since many years I am inspired by albums from Shrapnel Records and Lion Music. Also there are newer virtuosos as George Bellas, Rusty Cooley and Francesco Fareri, from whom I’m still learning techniques, but in conjunction with my own feeling. At these times the level of guitar playing throughout the world is very high, and never can you say that you can play everything.

There are a few various styles on the album and there is a very strong flow to the music.  Do you have any personal tracks or performances and if so why?

It’s hard to say which of the songs I like most. Sometimes it is “The Healing Hands”, sometimes “Grave of Love” or “Bard’s Tale” but also “The Heretic” is very personal for me.

What guitar/amp/effects equipment did you use and is anything modded in any way?

Amp: Marshall 800, Messa Boogie Stiletto,

Guitar: Fender Stratocaster Standard, Ibanez RG2550 Prestige (),

All used without additional effects when recording

What are you looking for in your guitar sound and are you totally happy with the final sound on record?

I’m still looking for strong sound in riffs and crystal Fender sound in the solo parts. Of course I have a few comments about sound on the album but it’s not time here for that;)

Another great guitarist Andy LaRocque mastered the album. How did this come about and what did Andy bring to the sound?

Because of recording instruments at many sessions, and several studios the effect was such that each song had a different sound and different equalization.  Andy LaRocque proved to be invaluable here.

Andy is my guitar idol since the time of my elementary school, even before I heard Yngwie. I’ve watched his production of music for some time now, so finally I ask him for mastering the album. I’m happy that he found time to master the album, despite the flood of work he already had.

People might raise an eyebrow when they hear of a Polish metal band as its not a genre the country is really know for, so is Crylord the only band playing this form of music in your homeland or is there a sizeable scene for metal?

In Poland metal music is limited to very brutal like death, thrash metal or soft pop rock that is played at radio stations. Bands in the centre are missing, that is hard rock, classic metal, etc.. It is regarded as the relic and something funny. I do not know any other neo-classical metal band in Poland except Pathfinder which is truly brilliant power / symphonic band from Poznan .

The promo video for “Warriors Moon” has just been released as well, a nice effort with Carsten Schulz on vocals, how did the video shoot go?

We wondered together with Carsten which track could be the best for promoting this album. After a deep analysis, we decided that “Warrior’s Moon” would be the best choice as it’s a song with a fairly compact form. I also wanted it to be not too long  a song  so that people do not  switch off during playback 😉 What can be interesting is that this song was instrumental in the original. It was Carsten who found the potential for the vocal lines.

Can we expect any live appearances from Crylord in the future?

In fact, it’s hard to say is it possible to play concerts at this time. Certainly Carsten is the vocalist who could be involved. It all depends on how the CD will be accepted. If not at this time it may be the next album we’ll play something together.

Outside of Crylord what do you like to do for fun? Listen to? Etc..

In fact, I do not have much free time now since the birth of my daughter Liliana. Now she is 16 months old and there are many responsibilities associated with it.

Additionally work takes time and effort. I spend my every free time to work on myself as a guitarist and composing new songs and arrangements. If I have a moment for myself I like to read books and meet with friends.

What are your plans for the rest of 2011 and beyond?

This year I intend to finish the composition and arrangement of the material on the second album. In the next 2012 if everything goes fine we will start the hard work with recording.

Boguslaw, may we thank you again for this interview and even more so for the excellent music on ‘Blood Of The Prophets’, we wish you all the best for the future.

I also thank you for the interview, analysis and review of “Blood of the Prophets”

AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES BYRD OF JAMES BYRD’S ATLANTIS RISING

James Byrd's Atlantis Rising c.1987

Regarded as one of the finest metal guitarists to have emerged in the 1980’s yet regrettably by no means a commercial household name, James Byrd is a musician that has chalked up praise from the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush and helped lay the foundations for what would become the melodic power metal scene back in the early/mid 80’s as a founding member and songwriter with Fifth Angel.  With a solo career spanning over 3 decades James has recently released via Lion Music an archive recording entitled ‘Beyond The Pillars’ which takes the listener back to 1987 shortly after he was “ejected” from the ranks of Fifth Angel.  We caught up with one half of Seattle’s finest six string stock (the other being Jimi Hendrix) to discuss ‘Beyond The Pillars’, the final days of Fifth Angel and get a first hand glimpse into the Seattle metal scene of the mid 80’s which proved such a breeding ground of talent prior to the emergence of grunge.

James, it’s good to finally see a new release from you in ‘Beyond The Pillars’, its been a long wait since the ‘Crimes Of Virtuosity’ reissue back in 2005. ‘Beyond The Pillars’ is actually a new release of old unreleased material from the mid/late 1980’s. Tell us about its origins, its discovery and the story that’s led to its eventual release in 2011.

3 years prior to the release of James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising on Shrapnel, I had just parted with Fifth Angel, and immediate began putting together a new band and recording, with the intent of getting another record deal.  Freddy Krumins and I set up shop at this unbelievably primitive -and filthy- rehearsal studio under the Ballard Bridge in Seattle called “The Music Bank”, and began recording.  We had a 16 track machine and some microphones, and we had the largest room there; about 800 square feet I think.   The place was a real dive, and although the term “Grunge” wasn’t even in the lexicon yet, all our rehearsal neighbors sounded quite horrible.  We recorded there between the Summer of 1987 and the Winter of 1988 and my attorney shopped the songs.  Jumping ahead to 2011, I knew of course we had done these recordings, but I thought the multi-track masters had been recorded over (which they had).  I was talking to Freddy Krumins, and I asked him about the tapes, and he confirmed that the masters had been recorded over…but that he actually had “some mixes somewhere”.  That was news to me, so I asked him to look for them.  He went through a bunch of boxes, he found more and more, and we finally came up with the tapes that went onto “Beyond The Pillars”.

Atlantis Rising, Fifth Angel, Queensryche, TKO, Metal Church etc, the list of melodic “power” metal bands was very distinct to come from one city.  What do YOU, a native of the scene think the  area had to offer for bands of this ilk as there is a definite “feel” to those bands listed that suggest there was something in all the water up there?

You know, there was a definite factor in the Seattle area having a metal music scene, and I’ll tell you what it was, but in terms of style, I’m not sure I hear a lot of similarities between those bands.  At the very beginning of the 80’s, there came to be what was called an “under age scene” in Seattle.  We have a 21 year old drinking age here, and no one under 21 was even allowed into any club which served alcohol.  I don’t know who came up with it first, but someone had the smart idea to create non-alcoholic clubs where kids could see live music.  There was “Lake Hills” in Bellevue, “The End Zone” here in Kirkland, and “Mr. Bills” in Seattle.  All of a sudden, all these kids into metal not only had a place to go, they had a place to play their music.  I put together my first original group in 1980 called IIXS, and we’d play live here.  I remember Geoff Tate was in two bands; “The Mob” and “Myth”.  “The Mob” eventually would become Queensryche.  In terms of bands influencing one another musically, at least for me it was a non-factor.  I was playing every week-end, so I wasn’t spending my time listening to the music of local bands.  My own musical influences actually pretty much came to an end in 1980 actually, because I didn’t have any money to buy albums, and I was playing almost every weekend.  But the East Side is very different from Seattle proper in terms of culture.  It’s the suburbs, and metal was huge here.  It seemed like everyone wore white Capzios and leather and had long hair, whether they played in a band or not. Scorpions and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, along with Van Halen, were extremely popular here.  Iron Maiden was also really popular, but I never owned an album by them.  I remember hearing them before they had Bruce Dickinson, and not liking them much. I LOVE Maiden now of course (one of my favorite still around metal bands). But my influences were always limited to bands with great guitar players like Blackmore, Roth, and Schenker.    Anyway, the underage scene here got very big.  The first gig Def Lepppard played in North America, was right here in Kirkland at “The End Zone”, and I distinctly remember hearing before they came, about some band that was really young (like 15 year olds) that was coming from England, and how they were supposed to be the next big thing.  I didn’t see them.  I didn’t have money for tickets.  But I think it was an indicator of how much of a hot-spot this area was for European style hard rock for a few years.

Then came the grunge era.  I know that Alice In Chains and Soundgarden where rehearsing in early incarnations at the Music Bank around the same time of the material that has surfaced on ‘Beyond The Pillars’. That’s quite a difference in styles for a metal scene in a city to offer up. Do you think either of you had any idea how the musical landscape would change a few short years later?

I remember hearing a bunch of bands Freddy and I thought were not good (an understatement) during that period.  But I was so detached by then from anything other than my own music, I had no idea not being able to play would actually pan-out. We just thought it was some kind of really bad metal.   I didn’t realize that it would go anywhere until Nirvana’s “Nevermind” raced up the charts, and then I was horrified (as were a lot of guitar players).  Of course I finally came to understand that movement and why it happened, but it really had nothing to do with what had gone on in the early 80’s under-age scene here.

The story of how you departed Fifth Angel has been well documented in a number of places.  Yet it’s not terribly well known that you had Fifth Angel drummer Ken Mary with you for the Atlantis Rising debut, and indeed who can also be heard on ‘Beyond The Pillars’.  You and Ken have remained friends over the years; I wonder if he saw through all the B.S. that was going on when the major management and record label deal came through for Fifth Angel. Have you ever discussed that time with each other?

Actually, what a lot of people don’t know is that Ken was never in Fifth Angel as a voting band member.  He was playing in a bunch of bands, we regarded him as our drummer, but he was not in the band as a part of the legal partnership.  He was a sideman contractually.  Ken was not involved in the bullshit at all, and when the split came, he was the first guy I called to play drums for me.

James Byrd & Freddy Krumins c.1987

How did you meet vocalist Freddy Krumins, a great vocalist, and how soon did you realise you two had musical chemistry?

It was through an ad in a local music newspaper called “The Rocket”.  I realized we had something special the instant I picked up a guitar and he started to sing.

How did the pair of you go about writing the material heard here if you can remember?

I’d have the music, a title, and usually a chorus lyric, and he’d fill in the blanks lyrically.  Sometimes I’d write everything like on “Fallen Warrior”.  “After the fire” was my chorus lyric, and he filled in the verses.  He wrote “Waiting in the shadows” in its entirety, and I played guitar on it. It just came really naturally and there weren’t any formulas.

The material and performances suggest you had some serious fire within to come out and make a serious statement with the material heard on ‘Beyond The Pillars’ and indeed the versions that made the original ‘James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising’ debut.  Can you remember what you were trying to express, focus on or indeed aim towards with the material at that time?

I was extremely energized, and it was definitely a pissed off energy.  I had just had the planning and very hard work of 5 years, and a three quarters of a million dollar major label record contract blown to pieces right at the brink of what was by all measure according to everyone, supposed to be major rock stardom.  One JERK blew it to pieces (Ed) by refusing to sign the record deal if I wasn’t ousted. Because his best friend was Ted (apparently since first grade or something), Ted went along with it, and they both wanted to cut me out of the publishing on the next album.  It was like getting sucker punched out of nowhere and I was livid.  So I turned that major outrage into a major effort to pick-up and learn from the mistake of trusting the wrong people.  I was still under the Epic Records contract and they had an option on leaving members, so the first place the material had to go, was to Epic/CBS.  Those idiots passed on the material you hear on “Beyond The Pillars”, but no one ever accused major labels of being good at anything (other than royalty theft).

Click cover to read our review of 'Beyond The Pillars'

 ‘Beyond The Pillars’ is, as you mention, 7 totally new and 7 alternative versions of music from your early days.  The previously unreleased 7 totally new tracks are obviously likely to generate interest from your fans. Where you at all worried about presenting ‘old material’ to them? Some might say it’s not showing growth, others will be pleased for the discovery. Where you ever in two minds about what to do with this material?

No not really.  There’s been a lot of stuff since 2002 that’s precluded me from making another new album.  I did manage to play on some other projects like the Jason Becker, Uli Roth, and Hendrix tributes put out by Lion, but all that stuff that can just be filed under “life” to keep a long story short, made the discovery of these tapes a good thing.  My only concern really, was how to explain the nature of the “new” performances, and “new” material; that half the tracks were unreleased performances of songs that would be re-recorded in 1990, and that the other half of the tracks were songs that were ALSO recorded in 1987-88, but that the songs had never been heard. It’s a complicated thing to put in a sound byte, and apparently several non-English speaking -as a first language- reviewers, have gotten it wrong, and thought that it’s a mixture of new and old recordings.  That’s wrong. Everything was recorded 23 years ago.

I guess in some ways it must be like getting in a time machine?

Yes, very much.  A flood of long forgotten memories came flooding back, and although I was very driven at the time, and going through a divorce, it was actually a very fun, creative time.

The 7 alternative versions to these ears are superior performances to what later surfaced on the Shrapnel Record ‘Atlantis Rising’ release, there seems more fluidity in your lead work, not to mention more aggression, plus the harder edge to the material on ‘Beyond The Pillars’ blows away some of the more polished offerings previously available, but I am interested to know you hear when you listen back?

That’s what I think as well.  I remember when the album was finished for Shrapnel in 1990, feeling the same thing.  The album for Shrapnel was done in a professional studio, at professional studio rates.  There were time limits on every performance of songs I had previously recorded without any concern for dollars spent.  It was a re-do, and the second time, I did not have the luxury of experimenting with a bunch of takes, so I learned my own solos as much to the note as I could, and got all the guitars done as quickly as I could to remain within budget.  The Shrapnel release was a very good album I think, but when you hear the first performances from 3 years earlier, it’s obvious that a bit of magic was lost the second time around.  I think that’s probably inevitable when you re-do something, and it’s why I put together my own studio in 1993.

How do you now view yourself as a guitarist when listening back to your work almost 25 years ago?

Those recordings for me are a watershed really.  They mark the first time I could make recordings which allowed me to really develop as a guitarist/producer and to develop the beginning of a mature identity. There really isn’t a lot on the Fifth Angel album I am still happy with today as a player.  That album was also made under severe budget and and time restraint, and all the solos were worked out to the note; they had to be because I only had 45 minutes per song to cut my guitars on that album.  That’s absurd if you think about it. The recordings on “Beyond The Pillars” accurately reflect my personality and passion because there was nothing in the way of it in terms of worrying about time or money.  It’s the difference between improvising something on the spot, and re-playing something from the past.

Those that have followed your career know that you changed style from a relatively straightforward hard rock/metal approach in comparison to the much more progressive and symphonic offerings released under the BYRD moniker in the early 2000’s.  Do you have a preference now for any body of work, and may we perhaps read anything from that into what direction you might take in the future?

You know, one of the things I’ve believed for a long time, is that I would be both more successful, and more criticized, had I “stuck to a formula”, and made album after album with the same people and the same direction.  That allows people to understand you because you limit yourself.  But after making James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising for Shrapnel, I had a distinct certainty of how it FELT to re-hash something a second time, and I didn’t like it, so the idea of doing something I don’t really feel, is an idea that turns what should be a passionate expression, into an exercise.  That’s always felt wrong for me.  I want to sound fresh, not rehearsed.

Have you been following the farce that is becoming the Fifth Angel soap opera reunion?

More or less.  It’s been hard to avoid with all the press releases they did.

Where you asked to be part of it?

Yes, repeatedly.

Any words to close the book once and for all on the reunion rumours?

I can’t control what other people do.  But I was offended by the notion of a bunch of people who were not band members, and one original member, clearly trying to capitalize on the name with a ghost band.  Their drummer recently quit, and their fifth vocalist also threw in the towel.  I guess you can ask drummer Jeff McCormack and vocalist David Fefholt what their feelings are after working with Ed Sein (Ed “Archer”).  They’re pals of mine now, but I’m not going to speak for anyone but myself. I just hope Ed gets a life, or at least stops trying to live off of something that doesn’t exist anymore by grave digging and cheapening what was once a great band.  If you have any merits as a musician, you should be willing to stand behind a name of your own.  I’m sure a lot of original fans saw through it and knew what it was really about.

Outside of your own musical work you run your own guitar company, Byrd Guitars.  It seems you have guitars being built for customers all over the world, is the company offering you as much from a personal satisfaction perspective as your musical works?

It’s very satisfying.  I’m not some business man hawking guitars that I have made.  I’m a craftsman who makes something very very high quality, and each one is uniquely fit to each client like a fine Italian suit.  Making albums, making guitars, all the custom fabrication work I’ve done on motorcycles and custom and rare automobiles, they are all satisfying because unlike most “jobs”, I create something tangible, and leave it in the world.  I think that’s the essence of the artistic drive, and it’s really similar to the drive others have to have children; you want to leave something of yourself in the world, and you hope it outlives you.

Back to music and are there any new artists, whether it be new to the scene or just new to you that you have drawn some enjoyment from?

Yes.  Roy Marchbank, an absolutely astounding guitarist from Scotland.  I met him on Facebook and was absolutely blown away.  He is so far beyond any other guitarist on planet earth, it’s not even funny.  He’s not a metal player.  He’s really his own thing, he calls it “Celtic Fusion”, but the musical genius and stunning technique utterly captivated me.  Now he’s playing and endorsing my guitar and I’ve been trying to help him make some connections here in the States.  People can check him out at Roymarchbank.com

James, thank you for your time and we wish you all the best for the future in all your endeavors.

Thank you Andy, it’s been a pleasure.

www.jamesbyrd.com | www.byrdguitars.com 

AN INTERVIEW WITH BJORN LODIN OF HARD

Known for the best of part of 2 decades as the vocalist and leader of Baltimoore, Bjorn Lodin is currently a Swedish ex-pat earning his keep in Hungary with the hard rock outfit HARD. In what is becoming an annual event, Virtuosity One caught up with Bjorn to discuss the new HARD release “Even Keel”.  Promising in advance to be freshly shaven we hope that Bjorn’s conversation is as sharp as his razor.

Bjorn, once again we are discussing another album.  Do you really have nothing better to do?

Hello! Na, not really much else out there to feed my needs… I’ve been at it for so long that this has become my comfort zone – gotta have the pain and frustration as well as the recognition and pleasure. Where else can you start with nothing, make shit up, start believing its true, loving it and hating it..? Making a record the way I do, is for me a total “hanging out with myself” experience. It’s addictive and I’m an addict! A slow but yet sure fix.

Your second album with HARD entitled “Even Keel” was released a few weeks ago, how has the initial reaction been from fans and press?

It’s been mainly positive so far! We’ve picked up some new fans and it seems that people in general like the rougher approach we have on ‘Even Keel’. Media feedback is still coming in and we get picked up on radio playlists all over the world.

It seems you caused quite a stir when you joined the band early last year for “Time Is Waiting For No One” with a lot of exposure on MTV and the like, along with a support slot for Kiss.  Did you anticipate this sort of reaction?

Well, I didn’t know what to expect… To me it was a funky thing joining these guys… I suppose it had some news value and we worked it the best way we knew how. It’s not that common that a Swede joins a Hungarian band, after all. And it got me to shake hands with Gene Simmons – I didn’t see that one coming J Then again, you hardly see anything coming anymore… just gotta go for it.

Since your first album with the band you’ve moved from Sweden to Hungary, how has the change been and how are you adapting in your new country?

It was a major decision but a necessary one. Going back and forth wasn’t an option in the long run. I’m also working with some other artists here doing song writing and production work. I’ve built a studio here so I have all I need to get things done. I’m not planning on staying forever but right now I’m enjoying the former Eastern European way of living… slowly getting the hang of it.

Hungary isn’t a country that would be on many peoples lists of hard rock havens so was their any reticence on your part about joining the band and ultimately moving?

Not at all. This is a natural stop for me. I can’t think of a better opportunity to explore and get inspired. I have no idea of where I’m heading and I make my list as I go.

Bjorn boasts to the audience.

It must be gratifying to be picking up the accolades and praise the band is over there?

It’s nice to get positive feedback anywhere, sort of makes taking all the crap easier. I suppose we stand out a little bit here, due to the English lyrics and the somewhat ‘traditional’ approach in rock music, since most Hungarian ‘traditional’ rock bands sing in Hungarian. This is not an easy barrier to break through but I feel we’re sharing the same fans as they have.

Our review of “Even Keel” was praiseworthy (thanks for the cheque) stating the new album is “more streamlined and straight-ahead hard rock than its predecessor, being all about accessible rock with a healthy dose of deft touches to move it nicely out of derivative”. Is this a fair assessment in your, one of the key songwriters eyes?

Hehe, sure is. (Don’t spend it all at once) Just crank it and your feet will start tapping!

Was this direction intentional or was this a comfortable and natural shift in attention compared to “Time…”?

Yes and yes. These songs pretty much wrote themselves. ‘Time…’ was our first effort together and I was taking on the role as the producer rather than the song writer. The guys had a lot of ideas that we made into songs. Before I joined the band, HARD was a more AOR influenced act. I never could stand too much of that style – predictable major pussy harmonies with ‘angry’ guitars, or whatever… so I tried to get some, as I see it ‘real musical danger’ in there and get a nice mix of them both J. I also produced ‘Even Keel’ and I wanted to let the hair down a bit. I co-wrote all the songs with our guitar player Zsolt Vámos, and we sort of found a common ‘backyard spot’ were we ended up writing and arranging the songs. I can’t wait to get started with the 3rd one!

The album sounds like you are having a ball with this material.  Your voice is oozing attitude and seems very at home in this setting. Vocally, is this the most fun you’ve had in a while?

First of all it’s a new key for me. The whole guitar is tuned down a whole step. This got me to make vocal lines having a much wider range than I’ve sung before. I suppose that combined with the straight forward guitar oriented songs gave it a bit of a new touch. It’s all about being inspired and this was a new thing for me so… I’ll admit it wasn’t easier to sing with lower tuning… took quite some time getting used to.

The reason I ask the last question is in a few interviews for the last couple of Baltimoore albums you stated you’d consider having another vocalist take over, and on the last Baltimoore record (Quick Fix) included all the tracks in instrumental form asking for those brave enough to offer up their own vocal takes.  I wonder if this was a period of your career where you perhaps weren’t over joyed with your voice, whereas on this new album it sounds strident and full of a cock-sure attitude that works really well with the material.

Hmm, well… I love and hate my voice. The voice is the ultimate instrument and a great vocal performance overshadows everything. However, being impotent doesn’t mean you can’t give directions for multiples… 😉

LMAO, How has the writing for the new album gone? Was this material written mostly since your move to Hungary?

We started right after ‘Time…’ was released last spring and recorded in Sweden in July and August. We had plans for an autumn release but things kept pushing the release until March this year. I mixed and mastered here in Budapest.

Who are the principle writers in the band and how did the tracks generally get created?

Zsolt and I wrote all songs this time. Zsolt came on board right after we finished ‘Time…’ and had a lot of material pretty much ready to go. We’ve very different taste and influences, which creates a healthy tension when we sit down to work.

I know you are a very strong rhythm guitarist so how much influence did you have with main guitarist Zsolt Vámos on this new material?

He adjusted to the spanking rather quickly!

The guitar work is excellent with some superb tones once again.  What was the main guitar setup this time around?

Main rhythm guitars were tracked using Les Paul Standard/2002 and Fractal Audio Axe-Fx Ultra. I don’t remember what was used for lead guitar…

What was the lyrical influence stemming from this time round?

I don’t remember that either… I’m sure it was something that made perfectly good sense at the time J. The lyrics are in the booklet – you tell me!

The lyrics are a little saucier in places than I’ve heard previously from you. Are the spicy national dishes of Hungary heating up your blood pressure?

Aha, well I suppose I’m getting to that infamous ‘dirty old man’ stage… There sure is some good spicy food here! I’d be surprised if it didn’t influence me one way or the other.

How do you personally view the new material from an insiders perspective and what is it about being in Hard that excites you?

Well, the new album has added another colour to my pallet, if you like. I haven’t made a record sounding like this before. Now when it’s done it only feels natural to open more doors in this genre. HARD is where I do my thing right now and I’m surrounded by people who every day wants to keep the fire going. That is all one can ask for. HARD is a good band to be in!

The production is powerful yet stripped down sounding rather live, this kind of production is rapidly becoming your trademark, are you getting closer to perfecting it to your ear?

This is a constant battle but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Making a record is about planning ahead and making decisions about all kinds of stuff. Sometimes you make the right decision… Anyway, it’s a learning curve that seems never ending and is very song dependant. It’s great fun though and a big reason to why I do music in the first place. Without the production and creativity part I’d never do the singing and dancing.

What was your personal aim with “Even Keel”?

To finish it J You never know what you’re gonna end up with. I think it turned out very well and it will find its listeners.

Click cover to read V1's review of "Even Keel".

I see you have some festival appearances lined up over the Summer, and have a live video available for “Scream out to be heard”, I know one of the main frustrations you had with Baltimoore was the lack of live activity. Was the chance to play live a lot more with Hard a fundamental reason for you hopping onboard a plane to Hungary?

Certainly! Playing the songs live is the icing on the cake. Yes, we have some concert dates this summer and we’ll continue in the autumn and winter.

Does the challenge of getting in the leather trousers, working and winning over a live audience hold a challenge to you, scare you or excite you?

Right now we are very well rehearsed and can hardly wait for the next gig. We’re all very excited – and I have new tailor made leather pants!

How does that challenge compare to creating an album – which in theory is something will be around forever?

That’s a whole different ball game. Making an album is easy compared to getting the act on the stage, which incorporates other people and other problems. They do need each other, though… in order to be complete. This is why I’m a fan of arranging and producing a record so it will make a smooth transition into the live scene.

Do the band have any other promo events coming up?

We’ll probably make another video…

Bjorn, many thanks for your time. Any parting messages?

Thanks for the questions and be sure to check us out at:

http://www.hardhungary.com

http://www.facebook.com/hardhungary

http://www.myspace.com/hardhungary



AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIELE LIVERANI OF TWINPSIRITS

Daniele, congratulations on the new Twinspirits album ‘Legacy’ it’s a fantastic piece of work.Twinspirits have been building rapidly since the debut ‘The Music That Will Heal The World’, with the excellent ‘The Forbidden City’ and now ‘Legacy’.  You seem to be very inspired with this band, what is it about the band and music that you inspires you?

D: Thank you very much! Well, what can I say, Twinspirits has born in 2004 and the main concept behind this line up was to gather some very cool musicians I’ve been discovering during my musical path and working with for my past projects (Genius/Khymera etc..). Twinspirits is the most inspiring environment for me at the moment, because it continues the musical thread I started with the genius rock opera back in 1998/1999, and therefore it’s the situation that represent me the most in terms of songwriting and musical vision. Of course the talent and musicality of all bands members is a constant inspiration for me, when writing and producing, and they arrangements contributions to my songwriting is also very important and it really gives life to the songs.

Can you give our readers an overview of how the creative process for the album took place?

D: Basically I write the music and Lyrics and a pre-produce a rough version of the songs by myseld which becomes a sort of sketch for the songs, then I give it to the guys and they arrange their parts, write solos, give suggestions a songs structures and I take care of their feedback, of course trying to make a synthesis of all ideas without loosing the vibe and the direction of the original songwriting. Then we record each instruments, starting from Drums, then bass and guitars, then Keyboards and finally vocals and backing vocals. Then I mixed the album in my home studio. It took almost 2 months to mix this Legacy album, since I really wanted everything to sound acoustic and natural (no triggers or stuff), and I really did my best to take care of all details and give justice to the songs, I have to say that, so far, I’m very happy of the result.

You found a fantastic vocalist in Goran Nyström whose range is very impressive, is this a voice you enjoy writing for and what role does Goran play in his vocals ideas?

D: Yeah! Goran is absolutely an amazing discover, he’s so versatile, got great range, can sing almost in all ways and styles and has a good tone…what else can you expect from a singer? Basically I submit him the preproduction’s with lyrics I write, and when we work together in the studio we go along all phrases and find substitution when the sound he wants to achieve is not compatible with the words I wrote, so there’s a good interaction with him in the studio, and he adds a lot of arrangements and gives life to the initial ideas with a lot of creative adds in terms of style, passages and stuff. Album by album we are construction a great interaction process and it becomes more natural for me to write songs for him, and for him to arrange and give songs the right mood/vibe. It’s really a pleasure to write lyrics for Goran, because you don’t have actual limits to the creative part, he can sing everything!The main nucleus of the band have been together for a while now, and having played a number of live dates in the run up to the recording of ‘Legacy’ shows in the performances and tightness of the band.

How do you feel playing live have benefited the band and music?

D: It’s been extremely beneficial, we had the change to play live many gigs during the promotion of “The Forbidden City” in 2009/2010, and that live experience has given us more strength, tightness, and you can really hear in Legacy, in my opinion, this improvement. It sounds more natural and every member is more comfortable with their role. Playing live is so important, and we’re continuing to do that as much as we can!

‘Legacy’ can be split into two distinct sides with the first half being quite commercial songs that are not tied together, whilst the second half sees a mini suite that I believe is probably the best thing you have released.  Can you tell us what led to the 2 halves or “sides” of Twinspirits and when did it become clear that this would work?

D: Well, I had in mind the concept behind “The Endless Sleep” suite since years, and I decided to record a preproduction of the whole suite (30min) and I found out that it was very inspired and I really liked the result. That’s why I decided to go ahead and include that song in the new album. I new it was a challenge, but I thing it’s a well structured multi part suite, and we’re experiencing that is working very well also live and it turned out to be the favourite song of all band members!  So the first 6 songs are more straight to the point, even if still progressive in many ways, to balance the complexity and long journey of the second part of the album which is more dramatic, intense and needs more listens to get into. “The Endless Sleep” is been one of the most demanding compositions of my life, and I’m so happy about the result and how all band members gave life to it…

‘The Endless Sleep’ suite is superb, tell us more about its creation and in what phases it was recorded?

D: Thank you! Well it’s creating lasted a couple of months, initially I wrote the lyrics and after that a put them in music. I have to say that it came out very fluently part by part, and it’s been a natural process, I didn’t had to force any aspect of the creation, and that’s why in my opinion it’s a  long piece of music that really flows fast. So it’s been written all together in a couple of months, it’s not the result of a year lasting process.

Does recording something as ambitious as this get easier over time as the last 2 albums weren’t lacking in big compositions either?

D: Well, it’s of course ambitious to create, arrange and produce a 30 min suite, and probably now the band is more mature and it was a good moment for this challenge. Anyway when I write I tend to be free from any rule or external influence and environment that the music will be produced with. I have to be free to create, and the suite “the endless sleep” just came out in this last 2 years period, you really can’t expect what will come next in your creation process, at least speaking of my type of creation process. It just came at the right point of the band evolution I think, and I feel lucky for that inspiration at the right time!

Do you provide music transcripts of the parts you want the rest of the band to play or do they play from ear and add their own ideas?

D: I provide basically full preproduction recordings (also sung by me in a rough way) in an organised multi session project that includes also midi of most of the parts (except guitars and vocals), it’s enough for the guys to pick up the song and start to work on arrangements. The midis and scores for guitar player and bass player are very useful for the more challenging parts like duets, tricky parts or tricky harmonies.

Twinspirits have their own voice in the progressive metal scene, is this something you strive hard to create?

D: Well, I think it’s the goal of every artist/band is to create their own voice on the scene. I’ve always worked in that direction, trying not to follow any stereotype and to transform all influences I had into something possibly new and fresh. It’s very difficult nowadays to be very different, so having some sort of original formula into a genre is already a great result in my opinion.

You have worked with Tommy Ermolli for a number of years now on different projects, what is it about his playing that you find inspiring and how do you feel he has grown as a player over the years?

D:Tommy has always been a mature musician, even when he was 13. That’s what’s amazing in his musical side and was the most impressive aspect I noticed when I discover him back in 2002: his musical taste and incredible melodic sense in addition to a great technical skill. This is very rare in a musician in my opinion. By the way, year by year and album by album you can hear a great evolution of his playing. Now he’s focusing also into the big picture and his style has evolved into a very consistent playing and arranging of the Twinspirits material. So I think that the talent and the musicality have always been there, but evolutions of his playing can be noticed constantly album by album.

‘Pay For Their Art’ touches on a subject that many bands are scared to speak up about – illegal downloading of music.  How has this affected Twinspirits and what do you believe the future holds?

D: Illegal downloading has affected Twinspirits and all my release of the past in a major way unfortunately. And as me, many other artists have been seriously damaged by this new era behaviour. I wrote that song cause I felt the urge to say something about this issue to our fans an to all listeners in general. It’s really a heavy topic for both label and bands in this period, many situations are at risk of disappearing if things won’t change in some ways. I think that the message of “pay for their art” is a positive message, and tries to reach the fans and let them understand what’s behind the music they listen to, the work, the passion, the nights spent in recording, producing and mixing, a live spent in writing music to deliver the “soundtrack of  your life”.

I think that the only way to solve this problem is to create a new culture that can teach to new generations a new level of sensibility of what they do when they download an album illegally. It’s became normal behaviour nowadays, and it’s been lost the idea that you’re doing something wrong and stealing something. We have to teach younger generation to become more responsible about this topic, I don’t believe that technical solutions (internet blocking or stuff) will be a solution to prevent this phenomenon, it has to start from the culture and from the right educations about this topic, that’s why I decided to write my little piece of message into the song “pay for their art”. In that song you can hear a sort of dialogue from 2 different kind of persons, a responsible one and a person who things it’s “cool” to download illegally, the first one trying to explain why he should “pay for their art”.

What other lyrical subjects are touched upon through the album?

D: Most of the songs are inspired from life thoughts, and personal experiences…we have a sort of “relationship ending” topic on song Senseless, then other topics like “the difficult world we’re living in” in Slave to this world, the difficult process of understanding our right path in life in “blind soul”…I usually write and put on paper my thoughts about life. The endless sleep is  different, it’s a visionary story I developed where a young person, due to a premature ending of his life, gets the change to discover and meet a superior entity that approaches him in the afterlife and gives him the chance to get back to the real world for a limited  period of time with a mission to accomplish that could lead to ease the pain and all the suffering of the current world…very difficult to explain all the concept and the story in a few words, but what’s nice in my opinion is that you can give different interpretations to what you read in the lyrics, I tend to write in a very open way, poetically, without explicit connections to specific religions, politics, real events, remaining very visionary and abstract to give a sort of freedom to the listeners to create their own idea of what’s behind some concepts/story I write, whatever are their life styles, ideas, profiles.

I believe the band will be hitting the road again in support of ‘Legacy’, can you give us more details of what to expect?

D: We’re doing shows in March 2011, travelling Italy and Switzerland, touching cities like Uster, Venezia, Bari, Caserta, Reggio Emilia and Vicenza…and more shows are in the organization phase, you can find all details and dates updates in our myspace profile http://www.myspace.com/twinspiritsband or our web site http://www.twinspirits.net

What else is in store for 2011 from Twinspirits?

D: Well, a lot of live appearances hopefully and some footage material of the “making of Legacy” and the making of the 2 videos we release recently “number One” and “Slave To This World”

Daniele, many thanks for your time.

D: Thanks to you for the support and to all Virtuosityone readers!!!

AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEX BEYRODT OF VOODOO CIRCLE

Voodoo Circle are the stunning hard rock band from guitarist Alex Beyrodt (Silent Force).  The band are just about to release their fantastic second album ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ on AFM Records and we caught up with the bands mainman to discuss the making of the new release, his gear preferences and the outlook on Silent Force.

Alex, many thanks for speaking to us again.The second Voodoo Circle album ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ is about to see release. We gave it a glowing recommendation, how has it been going down elsewhere?
So far I received almost only very good reviews. Only one or two silly ones…with comments like “the band tries to impress with Spanish guitars and ZZ Top riffs”….I will never understand some of those Internet mags and self proclaimed “Journalists”…sorry!  I’m even more thankful for mags like yours, were people have knowledge!

When did writing for the record commence?
Oh, I write constantly. It is hard to tell, but I probably started 2 years ago.

Do you normally write a big batch of songs and pick the best, or have little riffs and melodies you piece together when in the studio?
I usually write and record the song in my studio. I always have around 20 songs ready. In fact we could easily record another Voodoo Circle album tomorrow.

How closely do you work with the rest of the band when writing?
Well, I always compose the music, then we decide which songs have the best feel and spirit. Then David visits me and we work together on the vocal melodies. After that we have another vote, we make an A and B list……A goes on the record, B will be redone in the future.

Is most of this work done in your home studio?
The writing process is done in my studio, yes. The rest we do in different studios. It is important to me to have good rooms, especially when recording the drums.

Whereas I felt there was a more nod to Malmsteen on the debut the new album sees a lot more Blackmore, is that a fair assessment?
Absolutely, on the new album I go way way back to my roots….and I enjoy it a lot. I am a melodic player, always have been. I love to play with a lot of feeling and also to let the music breath. In fact, Yngwie and me, we have the same roots….I scalloped my Strat by myself when I was 16, so did Yngwie…..I grew up with Purple, so did he. And, I am very proud to let you know that I just got back from touring with the “Rock meets Classic” show were I played 3 weeks every night with Ian Gillan…..a Best of Purple Set. That was a real highlight.

Your guitar tones also feel a little more vintage as well, was this intentional?
I wanted to have the right sound for those songs, so ..yes…intentional.

We are loving the tones you are coaxing out of your Strats.  It sounds like a very stripped down approach; can you tell us what gear you used this time around?
I used a Marshall 1987X, a Voodoo Amp, my famous GuitarSlinger Double Dealer Booster and Overdrive (www.guitarslingereffects.com) and around 5 different Strats.

Here is the complete list:

Guitars: 2001 Siggi Braun Alex Beyrodt Custom Stratocaster Vintage White, 2010 Siggi Braun Alex Beyrodt Custom Stratocaster Black, 72’s Fender Stratocaster Vintage White, 60’s Fender Stratocaster 3 Tone Sunburst, 60’s Fender Stratocaster Sonic Blue, 57′ Gibson Les Paul Gold Top Reissue, Gibson Flying V Arctic White,

Amplification: Marshall 1987X, Marshall Plexi, Marshall Cabinet (Vintage 30’s), Voodoo Amps V-Rock

Effects: GuitarSlinger Effects Double Dealer & Fireball, WEM Copycat Echo Unit, Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal, Jim Dunlop Uni Vibe, Boss OC3, not to forget: Rübli Rock Alex Beyrodt Custom Picks & Live Line Cables.

How were the amps mic’d up?
SM57 and a room mic

Was there one particular piece of gear that you really connected with this time round?
My 72 Strat is the main guitar on the record.

David Readmans’ vocals are again superb.  He sounds like he has chosen a darker tone this time around with some smokey Coverdale-isms.  How did the pair of you work on the vocals, melodies, lyrics etc?
David came down to my studio at the Canary Islands and we worked for one week on the material, besides hitting the pool and the beach, drinking red wine hah…

Was there any particular vibe you were shooting for this time?
Late 70’s, early 80’s

Do you have any favourite tracks/performances on the new album?
I think I have never recorded a better rhythm guitar then on “Blind Man”. It has a very bluesy, Hendrix-ish vibe and this is a side of me not many people know. I love Power Blues, have you heard Philip Sayce…..I love him!

I know you were looking to get out on the road with the last release, can you see that happening this time round?
Well, we have been touring for around a week after the first release. We are recently looking for a tour to hop on….as 120 other bands too.

Any videos lined up at all to promote the release?
We released a promotion clip with interviews.

What else is in store in 2011 for Voodoo Circle?
Besides interviews, touring and song writing…..not much ha-ha

Are Silent Force over? On hiatus or what? It’s been ages since we’ve heard anything, is there likely to be any activity there down the line?
Well, DC is back in Royal Hunt, I am a constant member of Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle, plus I have my own effect pedal brand www.guitarslingereffects.com, Andre is drummer in Rage…we are all very busy. I am not saying we will never record another album but right now it has no priority….plus….let’s say….there are still some internal issues which have to be resolved first.

Any final messages?
Rock’ Roll isn’t a rocking chair!!!

Official website
http://www.myspace.com/voodoocircleband