[Classic_Rock_Forever] Hard Rock and Heavy MEtal News


Jack Russell of GREAT WHITE will participate in the Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp during the first week of May in Hollywood, California. Jack will attend a number of events, including the opening-night jam which is being hosted by Kip Winger.

"I am really looking forward to jamming with Kip, and other old friends, and seeing my friend Steven Tyler at the jam with the campers at the Playboy Mansion," said Russell.

Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp was founded by David Fishof in 1997 as the ultimate music experience for the amateur or aficionado, pairing music lovers of all levels together with rock icons for a first-hand immersion in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Camp attendees move from spectator to band member, sharing the stage — and limelight — with rock legends for an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For more information, visit RockCamp.com.
Skol Records is putting together the first-ever "A Tribute To Anvil" compilation, to be released in early 2013 as a deluxe limited CD and LP, with a thick booklet and exclusive front cover artwork. The album will be produced by Bart Gabriel, who — in addition to helming albums by such bands as JACK STARR'S BURNING STARR, CRYSTAL VIPER, LONEWOLF and SACRED STEEL — has produced the "A Tribute To Cirith Ungol", "A Tribute To Metalucifer" And "A Tribute To Sabbat" compilations, as well as several other cover songs which later landed on tribute albums to such acts as W.A.S.P., ANGEL WITCH, MANILLA ROAD, WARLOCK and RUNNING WILD.

Commented Gabriel: "This will be a real tribute, a really high-quality release, because ANVIL deserve to have one. I realize it won't be a bestseller, but all those who have seen 'Anvil! The Story Of Anvil' movie will understand what's the driving force behind this project."

He added, "I'm one of those guys who got inspired by ANVIL to continue, to follow my dreams, to never give up. And I know there are many, many bands around who feel like the movie is about them as well. It's all about positive energy, and I'm truly honored that the project was approved and blessed by ANVIL members, [which is what] makes it even more special!"

"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" was named one of 2009's best documentaries by a slew of film critics associations across the continent, including critics in Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, and Las Vegas, as well as the International Documentary Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the National Society of Film Critics. It also made the year-end Top 10 lists in publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and Village Voice.
Finnish melodic metallers BURNING POINT have inked a deal with Scarlet Records. The band's new album, "The Ignitor", will be released later in the year. The CD was recorded at HelGate and Reindeer Horns Studios and mastered at Tico Tico Studios (SONATA ARCTICA, SENTENCED) by Ahti Kortelainen. The beautiful cover artwork was handled by Felipe Machado Franco (BLIND GUARDIAN, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, IRON SAVIOR).

According to a press release, "No other title could be more appropriate to describe an album that truly ignites all the elements that BURNING POINT are about. The band have come a long way round musically and you can really hear it in their music. 'The Ignitor' takes all the good things from its predecessors, throwing them into a whirlwind of heavy metal and from the eye of the storm rises what can be easily considered the Finns' masterpiece."

BURNING POINT's fourth album, "Empyre", came out in February 2009.


Pete Ahonen – Vocals, Guitar
Pekka Kolivuori - Guitar
Jukka Jokikokko - Bass
Pasi Hiltula - Keyboards
Jussi Ontero - Drums
Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden's Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with with vocalist Marc Hudson and guitarist Herman Li of British epic power metallers DRAGONFORCE. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metalshrine: Do you consider this album ["The Power Within"] more different than the previous ones? How do you look at it?

Herman Li: I think it's definitely a different type of dynamics than the last album. I mean, we definitely touch on different kind of musical ways that we haven't done before. The speed is obviously still there, but we've expanded our boundaries on this album. We've actually broken our own rules book as we said we would never do certain things in DRAGONFORCE, and we actually did.

Metalshrine: Marc, you've come in as the new singer. Did you come in thinking "Oh, I've got all these cool ideas," or did you have a lot more laid-back approach?

Marc Hudson: To be honest, I think I was neither of those two things. I didn't come in confident thinking I've got all of this stuff and show DRAGONFORCE I'm the shit, it wasn't like that. But I wasn't laid back either. I was more eager to please them and on a personal level as well, so like a quiet confidence, if you will. I know that I can sing certain stuff, but I was no way cocky in any way, because these guys have been doing it for years and years and my experience is so small. I have a lot to offer, but they had to kind of explore my voice with me and through each song. A high note here and an alternative here. It's like I had the ability, but I didn't fully show it until the album recording got into the swing of it.

Metalshrine: Auditioning singers, I guess there's a lot of stuff that has to work. It's not just you being a great singer, there's the personal side to it as well and working in a group with five other guys. How much emphasis did you put on that when you were auditioning Marc? What was it besides his voice that made you feel that he was the one?

Herman Li: Well, from Marc's first video that he sent in, we liked it and we contacted him to sing another song. "OK, he can sing this one and that one. Now, let's send him a harder one." So the first song we sent was "Fury Of The Storm" before we even bothered meeting up with him. After he sang that one it was, "Oh, that's good, not bad," because that's a really difficult song, especially in its original key. Then we met to see how much he could drink and to see if he could be a partner in crime on tour as well. Even though most singers have to be very professional and they can't drink that much.

Marc Hudson: It's the most boring job. (laughs) Every singer I've met so far say the one thing, "Stay off the drinking 'till afterwards!"

Herman Li: So we got to meet him and talk and chat for a few hours and that was cool and then we put him in the rehearsal room with us to see how he would perform. So after he'd done that, we did five songs twice and that was good, but it still wasn't over, so went to see his band play and how his live performance was, like if it was awkward or if he did some strange things while singing. Then after that, there was another test. He had to go to my home studio to sing some new songs and see how fast he could learn those new songs and how he would sing them and see if he got pissed off when we started pushing him in the studio. "You have to sing this again! No, the melody goes this way, why don't you try this!" and just see what kind of ideas he would bring to the song. After all that, we were able to confirm him as the new singer. We worked with other singers, too, and talking to other guys, so [the entire process took] about eight months.
The brainchild of ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske and Pink Cream 69 bassist Dennis Ward, Unisonic formed in November 2009 following a meeting between the two as well as ex-Pink Cream 69 drummer Kosta Zafiriou. The trio had previously cut the full-length albums Place Vendome (October 2005) and Streets Of Fire (February 2009) for Italian record label Frontiers Records as members of Place Vendome, an AOR project founded by label president Serafino Perugino.
"I knew that he was capable of producing well, and arranging songs and stuff – he had lots of skills," enthuses Michael Kiske, vocalist and co-founder of Unisonic. "We were fooling around via email that we should do something together, but it didn't happen until we had a meeting. Kosta was approaching me basically from the management side saying 'We don't think you've been properly managed in the past couple of years,' which was very true. I did not have any management. I was managed by Rod Smallwood for a long time, which is a guy I really like. The reason why we didn't work together anymore was not because of personal things or whatever, but because he just didn't know how to handle me. I wasn't managed by them from 1998 onwards or something like that, and from that end it was very true. I was not managed, and then that thing of making a real band again came up.
"Dennis and me immediately had Mandy Meyer (ex-Krokus) in mind; he knew him from I don't know where, but he just knew him, liked him, and thought he was just a perfect guitar player. I think that was really true because Mandy is just a very sweet person, big-hearted, very gifted, and easy to be with, and that is always good in a band. That was that four-piece band, and we started to write some songs and even did a little bit of live playing. We played like two festivals in 2010; we played Sweden Rock and Masters Of Rock, mainly Place Vendome material and just a couple of tracks from Unisonic because we were just not ready then. We were writing but it was going slow, so in 2010 I personally started to think of another guitar player. I thought we needed another creative force – another songwriter – because it was just going too slow, but at that time I was not thinking of Kai for some reason. I didn't think he would be interested.
"I also have a good relationship with Kai, and not many know that. Even when he left the band we were still pretty okay. We didn't hang out every night or whatever, and we didn't do anything together musically apart from him helping me out with my first solo record (Instant Clarity, August 1996) together with Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden guitarist) and me singing on the fourth Gamma Ray record (Land Of The Free, May 1995). We didn't do much, but we were okay. We liked each other and when we saw each other there was always a good vibe going on, but we were not thinking about doing something together until we were onstage together with Avantasia in 2010. Before Kai I had a friend of mine in mind as a guitar player (Sandro Giampietro); a very strong individual, a great musician, and a guy who's helped me out on a couple of records I've done in the past, but I think Kosta was really scared of him (laughs). He's some kind of a person; he's very different, very original, very funny, very friendly, but different. Kosta was a little bit scared of him so that didn't happen, but when I was onstage with Kai on the Avantasia tour it brought us to different countries.
"We played a show in Tokyo, we played one show in Mexico, one in Brazil, one in Argentina, and we played Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany of course. It was a lot of travelling, but there was just a very, very nice chemistry going on between me and Kai which I had almost forgotten about. We started talking backstage 'We should do something together again because it just feels right' and we just didn't know how, but at that time again Unisonic just didn't come up.

"I don't know why, but after awhile when we found out we don't wanna do another project Kai made it very clear if we wanted to do something we gotta do one real thing. He suggested me joining Gamma Ray which I didn't really wanna do, because I didn't wanna join a band with a 20-year history. You always piss someone off, and to a certain extent it's also a bit too much for me is Gamma Ray. I like some of the material, but other material is just a bit too heavy for me to a certain extent. One of the guys said 'We still have just one guitar player in Unisonic,' and then it clicked for me. I thought 'That's it' because Kai's presence adds that extra edge – that extraordinariness – to Unisonic that I thought was missing. Now he's in the band and we started working on that first record, he's proving me right. He fits into the band very well."
Unisonic's moniker surfaced through the amalgamation of two potential names. "If you ever try to make a band and you try to find a name, you know how painful it is to find a decent name everybody is happy with," the frontman laments. "We had a lot of stupid names and we had okay names, and we even had some stupid names which everybody else liked which was scary (laughs). It's just the way it is sometimes though. I thought we would never find a name, but then in the end we ended up with two names; one was something Unison, and the other one was Sonic blah blah blah. I've forgotten about the other half of them, and Kosta was just putting both parts of it together. It made it Unisonic, and I really liked that – I thought that was great.
"It has a nice meaning, being sonic in unison or universally sonic. It doesn't sound overblown, and it's hard to put in a box. Judging by the band's name, you cannot say if it is rock or pop or metal or whatever. I really like that name and I also like the logo very much, but it took awhile to get there. When that name came up though I was mainly the only one that was totally convinced that this was a good name, but after awhile everybody was and the same with the logo when the guy made that logo. He's also done Backstreet Boys logos and things like that so he's a pretty famous guy who did the logo, and I loved it right away. I thought it looked really great."
Studio projects have consumed much of Michael's time of late, something the German is fed up of, instead wishing to hit the live circuit. "That's a good way of putting it," he agrees. "I had a break from live performances for almost 17 years, and I was pretty fed up with everything to be honest. For the first number of years I was totally frustrated and I hated everything because of just bad experiences, and too many bad experiences just summed up one big 'Leave me alone.' After awhile I got better though, and Place Vendome and Avantasia got me into that type of music slowly again. Yes, I was very fed up with just doing studio things and just doing vocals for records and whatever. Even doing solo records, even though it's a great thing to do. You learn a lot, but a band is just a whole different world."
Given the Great Recession that has blighted the music industry since the late 2000s, it's theoretically more difficult to organise live performances nowadays. "Well, I don't know," the singer muses. "I'm not confronted with everything that's connected with the business side these days, but it feels pretty much the same right now. I don't know if I'll say the same thing in two years but so far there's a lot of interest, especially now that Kai and me are back together. That has created interest. We'll have to see what happens, but at the moment we didn't plan to overkill live playing anyway. We wanna do that very controlled and not overkill it, but so far so good. We'll just see what happens."
Gamma Ray mainman Kai Hansen – also formerly of Helloween – as well as Dennis are Unisonic's key songwriters. "When I write songs, they're usually very different to what Kai writes," Michael reckons. "He really is a metal and rock songwriter whereas I'm just a songwriter. I just write melodies; I think it works best when I keep it very simple with acoustic instruments or whatever, more like a singer / songwriter kind of approach to it than hard rock or whatever. Some of my stuff I bring to the rehearsal room and play to them you can make a rock song out of and some you can't, and whatever works we will do with Unisonic. Kai and Dennis are the key songwriters when it comes to that though, and then comes Mandy who also has great ideas here and there. Then there's me if I have an idea that fits."
The swansong cut on Unisonic's inaugural self-titled record, 'No One Ever Sees Me' was composed by the co-founder. "You can see 'No One Ever Sees Me' is very different," he feels. "They all liked it, and Dennis simplified it. I had it much more complicated, but he just made it a simpler arrangement. I had all the parts, but he made it an arrangement which works. The rest is really from the other guys though. I had lyrics for another one which I think will just be a bonus track on some of the special editions or whatever, and it had my input of course here and there. Nothing worth mentioning in terms of credits or anything.
"It's about a girl from countries where they're more or less the property of man in a very inhuman way, Muslim countries or India where they have certain traditions that totally take the freedom of women and girls. The parents decide who they marry. Over here in Germany we have Turkish people; of course not all of them, but some of those hold onto their old traditions where the brothers kill their sister. Or the father kills the daughter because she's together with a guy that she loves instead of with who they decided she should marry and stuff, which is pretty strange to me. I don't get it. Traditions are fine to me and I'm okay with different mentalities and religions or whatever, but when it comes to inhumanity in that way it doesn't work.
"I had the idea of that song and those lyrics when I was watching an Indian father on TV talking about a young daughter of his. He was old, and he said in words 'I am going to decide who she's gonna marry, and if she starts talking about love I'll kill her with my own hands.' He thought it was totally justified. I was kind of shocked how a father could talk about his own daughter like that. This cannot be love, this is not love. I don't know what it is, but it's weird. That's what this song is about. It's actually from the girl's perspective in a way, and those girls are actually alright with it most of the time because they just grew up like that. They grew up not developing their own personality and their own identity, so they feel that it's okay that they're just property."
Spiritual topics have been the subject of past material authored by Michael. "Certain spiritual things that I've dealt with have made their way into tracks, but I try to hide it sometimes by not being too precise," he reveals. "When I'm writing about something it's gotta be something that I care about, not sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, living fast, and dying young."
At the time of writing, the frontman hasn't fathered any children. "My brother lives not in the same house but in the same building as me; they have their own apartment, and they have a daughter," he discloses. "Also my best friend has three children so I'm usually surrounded by children a lot, but I don't have kids myself."

That isn't to say Michael has never fancied becoming a father, however. "I haven't found the right girl, honestly," he confesses. "I lived together for 23 years with a girl that ended three years ago and we were already in trouble before then but we're still friends, really good friends. That's why we didn't end it, but I'm happy that we didn't have kids because they would be suffering now. You need to have the right girl for that, and I was not lucky when it comes to that. I was not lucky."
The tracks 'Over The Rainbow' and 'The Morning After' comprise the self-titled effort's bonus material. "On the standard version there are 11 tracks," the singer confirms. "There's one extra track I think on the Asian special edition, and then another extra track on the European special edition. There's one song called 'Over The Rainbow' which is a track from Kai; he had that one for awhile, and it's a bit of a Scorpions, Jimi Hendrix type of song. A very slow song but beautiful, and with strong lyrics too. It turned out very nice. For some reason most record labels always want bonus tracks, so you have to sacrifice a track for certain countries. I don't like that stuff at all, but it's the way they want it. There's not much you can do if they want it. The other track is called 'The Morning After', and that's a straightforward melodic rock 'n' roll song which could also be on a Place Vendome record. It's written by Dennis, and it has his handwriting."
Characteristically speaking, Michael surmises that Unisonic's members are individually "very, very different people. Totally different. It's interesting to see that it even works – in every way actually different – and that makes it all very colourful. I wrote something that you can hear is totally different to everyone else's, and Kai's songwriting is also very different to Dennis' songwriting. For some reason though – which we're very lucky for – Kai and Dennis work together very well. They're really creative. They have a saying here in Germany… I don't know if you have that over there in the UK but they throw balls to each other, like throwing a ball to the other person. This means that creatively they just work together very nicely; one has an idea, throws it over to the other one, and vice versa.
"They really nicely work together, and a good example is the track 'Star Rider'. Dennis had that song for awhile; he had very nice verses and it was a great bridge, but the chorus wasn't very strong. I thought it would never make the record because I only liked the verses and the bridges, and Kai heard that song and felt the same. He said 'I don't like the chorus. What if we do it like this?' Within 20 seconds he wrote a chorus for it, and now it's one of the strongest songs on the album in my opinion. That's how they both work together very nicely."
One specific location didn't play host to recording sessions. "Dennis and Kosta have been playing since their teenage years," the co-founder notes. "It was recorded in different locations; they recorded the drums I think in Belgium somewhere, and the guitars somewhere else. Obviously now in the internet ages where everybody has decent studio equipment in their home, you also do a bit of the stuff at home. You have the freedom of your time schedule. I personally don't like it when people talk into my vocals, and I can really get angry when people try to do that. I think it's wrong; if you as a singer don't know how to feel the song – how to express the song – then don't sing it. You have to fool around with it until you feel comfortable with it, and then you have to capture the moment.
"When I do a guest appearance on anything for example and they want me to do vocals, I make it very clear that I do vocals the way I want to. You sing a rough vocal so you know what the melody is like, and then I do my thing. I just don't believe in the concept of a singer standing in the studio, and someone else telling the singer how to sing a song. If you're insecure about a song and don't know how to do it then maybe that helps, but if you have grown as an artist then you know what you're doing anyway. Sometimes it's good to play it to someone if you're not sure yourself, and you're not convinced about it but don't know what to change. It sometimes helps if you play it to someone you trust, and ask 'What do you think? What do you think about this performance? Does it convince you?' Maybe that helps, but in general I know what I'm doing. I just need to practice a song, get a feel for it, and then I do a performance. Maybe it's just one evening where I fool around with the song, or maybe I need two or three evenings. You don't sing longer than two hours maybe anyway or maybe three if you take a lot of time, but usually it just takes awhile to get into the song and when I think it's right it's right.
"I'm not talking about creative things like melodies or whatever, because of course you gotta be open to changes and stuff like that. That's just arrangement, but when it comes to performance you have to do your thing. You have to be yourself, and that's why I'm doing vocals usually in my little home studio whenever I feel like that. If I feel like singing a song in the morning then I do that, and if it doesn't tick then I do it in the evening. As long as you work and you get some stuff done, I think that works. I think Kai did a few overdubs in his own place. With the main guitarist Dennis who's the producer of the album, some overdubs happened at home and stuff with just the mix of things. Before we started to record, of course we worked everything out as a band in the rehearsal room because that's very necessary. We did that with every song until we were happy with it."
Gut instinct plays a central role in recording vocal parts. "You always have to feel comfortable about it," Michael reminds. "You should never think about what others want to hear just because that doesn't work. You don't know what anyone else wants to hear, and you shouldn't become a puppet of anyone else. You just sing the song and as soon as it convinces you there's a chance that it might convince others, but don't try to please others because then you're just a puppet. You're not yourself, and you cannot have an identity in music in general like that. You have to convince yourself. You have to write a song and change it until you think it's cool – it works – and that it's fun to do. You then try to capture a good moment while you're singing the song. That's the best you can do."
A music video was filmed for group anthem 'Unisonic' at a ballroom in Heidelberg, Germany. "It was quite expensive, actually," the frontman observes. "We did it with a guy called Martin Häusler who's done a lot of videos. Even for Britney Spears I think, which is a totally different world. He's quite a known person when it comes to making artwork, and videos. We did it in a very old German building which is a few hundred years old, very beautiful, which has a theatre in it. It was mainly live performance, but also some other shots. It turned out pretty good, nice, and energetic."
Each Unisonic member has outside group commitments, causing one to wonder how active as a live unit the quintet will be. "It will depend on how well Unisonic does," Michael gauges. "If we really are a band that everybody wants to see live and we get all these touring offers in, then there'll be more live playing. If there are less, it'll be less. We all have other things that we also like to do, but the main priority is Unisonic at the moment. We will make time for Kai to be able to concentrate on Gamma Ray when he needs to, but it'll depend on how it does; how the record sells, and how much people wanna see us. We'll see what comes. As I said earlier, we don't wanna overkill. I like to play live a lot because I haven't been doing this for ages, but I also know that when you tour for a couple of weeks you quickly get tired. Even though now I'm hungry for it and I can't wait to get to South America for instance to do those ten shows or however many we will do there, I also know that when you're on the road for two or three months you get sick of it. It's good if we don't overkill it, which usually makes a band last longer."
A live setlist will inevitably fail to consist of solely Unisonic tunes. "There's not much to choose from because we only have one record, so we have to play pretty much the whole record if we can and if it works," the singer explains. "Of course now that Kai and me are together in a band and we wrote so many tracks from the Keeper records (May 1987's Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1 and September 1988's Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 2) for instance, we have to do a couple of those as a bonus. Of course we only play those that we've written. I saw Noel Gallagher for instance here in Hamburg recently (Sporthalle, March 8th), and of course at the end he was playing some of his biggest Oasis hits that he had written. Why shouldn't he? It's his music, and the same goes for me and Kai since we need some other material. We know that a lot of the fans will be happy when they hear them, and they will sound a lot like the originals since I sung them on the original records and Kai played the guitar on them. We always sound a lot like the original thing and we just have to do it, so there will be a couple of Helloween classics more towards the end I guess."
Certain vintage Helloween staples are a particular joy to perform. "Some were a pain in the ass, even in the early days," Michael remembers. "Even when I was 20 years old they were a pain in the ass to sing. I remember that, like 'March Of Time' for some reason. That one was always very difficult. I always loved singing 'Eagle Fly Free', which unfortunately was written by Michael Weikath (laughs). We won't do that one, but that one was one of my all-time favourites because it was great to sing. Especially if you started a show with that track, you couldn't really lose anymore. It was just great. 'I Want Out' we'll do, and that one is nice to sing. We might do 'I'm Alive', probably 'A Little Time', and maybe even 'Kids Of The Century' (from March 1991's Pink Bubbles Go Ape) even though that track was after Kai. It's one of mine, and I think it's a good number. We'll see."
Following recording sessions for the band's self-titled affair, no other material has been composed. "There was not much time," the co-founder cites. "I finished the last recording bits, and then right away had to jump into promotion. There were a lot of interview requests which we're happy about, but it was a lot of work. We were just incredibly tired. For two weeks we were travelling Europe; we were in England, France, Spain and so on, and we did lots of interviews. TV, radio, and face-to-face interviews and whatever. It sucked a lot of the time. When you've just finished a record you don't wanna get back into writing right away; you just wanna have a bit of time off, play live, get a bit of feedback, and then the songs come after awhile."
A fifth Michael Kiske solo album is on the horizon, though. "I don't really have a head for another solo record at the moment, but I have decided to do that with that friend I was talking about earlier – Sandro Giampietro," he announces. "We want it to be a very live record and a fun recording. I have a whole lot of songs which Unisonic didn't care much about which I will be doing with him. We will try to give it a nice, live acoustic feel. I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a very cool record, not so much for metal audiences but some of them are quite open too. Others will probably ignore it, but that's okay. I'm sure we'll record it in the summer; when the summer's over, I'm sure that'll be done. I'm not sure when it will be released but I still have a contract running for that one, so I have to do that anyway. I'll be doing that."
Unisonic was released in Japan on March 21st, 2012 through Marquee / Avalon Records, and subsequently in Europe on the 30th through earMUSIC / Edel Group.
Interview published in March 2012. Unisonic promotional photographs by Martin Häusler. Live photographs taken at Loud Park 2011 and used with permission.

More Trouble Than Trouble - Heavy Planet Interviews The Skull

I recently had an opportunity to chat with former Trouble vocalist Eric Wagner, drummer Jeff 'Oly' Olson and bassist Ron Holzner. We got caught up on the band's history, their relationships with former bandmates Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell as well as their other endeavors both musical and otherwise. But what the guys were mostly anxious to discuss is their new project…a modern take on the Trouble classics that they've appropriately dubbed The Skull. Whether you're a long time fan or you're new to them altogether, I can guarantee this is a band you do not want to miss. But don't take my word for it, check out the interview and see for yourself what these doom legends had on their mind.

Heavy Planet: Well to begin with, whose idea was it for the three of you to reunite as The Skull? How did this whole thing come about?

Jeff 'Oly' Olson: The best answer for that would probably be Days of the Doomed Festival in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. Retro Grave, Blackfinger and Earthen Grave played there…all three of our side bands.

Ron Holzner: I was kind of like, "hey why don't we get together and play some songs". I've joined Eric onstage with Blackfinger a couple of times and he's sung with my band Earthen Grave, you know whether we do a Trouble song or whatever. The three of us hadn't been together in a long time and we knew we were gonna be out there [at Days of the Doomed Fest] that weekend and it was like "hey let's think about this and do a few songs."

Eric Wagner: [Jeff and Ron] came up with Blackfinger and we did like four or five Trouble tunes and it was just a lot of fun, especially when we were doing "At the End of My Daze" the whole crowd was singing…it was awesome. And we were like "why not…let's do it."

RH: We just figured it was a one time thing and after we played "At the End of my Daze" we just looked at each other onstage and we were like "damn…this is badass." I mean people were singing…it was just a great feeling. And when it ended, I walked up to the microphone and said "this is just the beginning" without even thinking, it just came out.

EW: So I don't know, maybe about a month or so later I messaged each one of them and I'm like "I want to start a tribute band and I was wondering if you guys would be interested?" I said "a tribute to Trouble…because I look and sound exactly like the singer and you guys look just like the bass player and the drummer…it's fuckin' scary."

RH: We were all laughing about it and then the word got out and we started getting show offers. We started talking about it seriously and it has just snowballed so fast that we're still kind of shaking our heads about it that there are that many people who really want to hear the old Trouble stuff with Eric singing and us playing it. It's very flattering and it's nice. With the big doom movement now, we're like "damn it let's do it."

HP: Prior to the Days of the Doomed Fest, when was the last time the three of you had played together?

EW: Wow…um…it'd have to be…I'm not sure to tell you the truth. I think…'95?

HP: Going back to the Plastic Green Head days, which I believe is the only album that the three of you actually all played on at the same time, isn't that correct?

JO: Exactly. And the only time I played with Ron in Trouble other than that Plastic Green Head tour was at a get together in Chicago…really our first reunion. It was a blast man, we blew the PA out at the end of the night. **Laughs**

RH: Well actually Oly played keyboards on the [first] Def American record as well, but he didn't play drums because Barry Stern was on drums. But he was a part of every record I think except for this new one. [Editor's Note: The "new one" Ron is referring to is the as yet unreleased album that is being recorded by the current Trouble lineup with original guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell]

HP: Jeff, going back to the original Trouble lineup and your days in the band, you were obviously one of the founding members…you and Eric…and then after the release of The Skull, you left. For those who may not already know, can you explain why you originally decided to leave the band?

JO: There was a spiritual experience. I became a born again Christian. And a lot of rumors came about that I was gonna be a preacher. I mean I thought about that, but that didn't happen. **Laughs** I kept studying music and got prepared for Berkley. I went into Berkley and studied film scoring. I wound up getting deeper in thought…philosophy and ideology and religion and all that and I kept that more private. I pretty much left to really study. I think it might have upset Bruce [Franklin] back in the day, but I think we all understood maybe why I wanted to leave. But after all these years, I've never really been resentful of leaving whenever I left. It was usually, maybe economics, you know getting my finances together, or it was getting my head together and studying to be a sharper musician and to get in better shape as a musician. Coming back after Barry [Stern] was fun because I had to play Barry's parts and it was…what a learning experience that was.

HP: It was challenging?

JO: Yeah, very challenging. He's a lefty, he does some very cool things that drummers don't usually do, you know the way that he plays his cymbals while the groove is going, he doesn't stop the groove to hit a crash, it kind of goes as its…uh, it's just incredible. It just made me a better drummer. And the last time I left Trouble [2008], this last final time after the west coast swerve that we did, I kind of had to leave because it was getting too hard to fly out all the time. We weren't able to pay for the flights anymore and just kind of the economics were getting pretty rough. **Laughs**

HP: Eric, I think back when you left Trouble in 2008 it was more or less that you were tired of the touring life, is that correct?

EW: Well at that point…I was a little sick of it. I was sick of doing the same old songs every night. And I just wanted to write. I had a bunch of songs I'd been working on, on my own and I just kind of wanted to chill and work on those and put together my own thing, just to grow. Making records and writing songs is really my favorite part about being in a band and at that point I really didn't see that that was gonna happen and I just wanted to do my own thing for awhile. And I did that [with Blackfinger] and now it's over and [that record] is coming out and it's time to do something else. And I'm having a blast with The Skull. It's been a lot of fun putting this together and the response we've been getting…people are excited about it and so am I.

RH: Yeah there's no incentive. It gets…I don't want to say boring, but I guess it did. It's almost like working on an assembly line and you just kind of do other things to bide your time and your mind and I think that's where partying creeps in a little more because there's no new stimulation from playing different songs. It's just kind of like "eh." We're trying to avoid all of the mistakes we made and do it differently and to actually make new mistakes. That's life and progress, you have to take chances and a lot of times you make mistakes but you just try not to make the same ones…you make new or better ones. **Laughs**

HP: Ron, you left Trouble in 2002, why did you leave?

RH: Rick [Wartell] and I were in a box at the House of Blues watching Michael Schenker Group and I said "why don't we just get Eric back and do the original band…do a reunion?" And we did and we made it happen, but by the fifth or sixth reunion show it was just going drastically in a weird, chaotic direction. And different individuals were influenced by outside stuff that really made it difficult to be around them…without really getting explicit. The direction [of the band] and basically [I was] getting pushed into the background and I thought "at this point I would like to have a say in my life." And I thought I needed to step away and get away from music for a little bit. I kind of took a break. And then my house burned down and the whole next year was kind of…well I guess I left at a good time. It would have happened anyway, but when such a traumatic thing happens like that, you need to get away from whatever you're doing and focus. So it was meant to be for me to get away at that time.

HP: Obviously two of you [Eric and Jeff] were original members of Trouble and Ron played with the band for 16 years, so this lineup for The Skull almost feels more like Trouble than the band who is actually now called Trouble.

EW: **Laughs**

HP: So my question to all of you is…what are your relationships like with Bruce and Rick today?

EW: We're cool. I talk to Bruce a little bit more than Rick probably. I grew up with Bruce in Aurora here. We played in a band before we joined Trouble. So I know him well…I mean I know both of them real well…but I do speak to Bruce more often. And you know we talk about what's going on with each other's lives here and there. But we're friendly, it's not like we hate each other or anything like that.

JO: I did some interviews with them when Trouble did "70,000 Tons of Metal" and I had asked questions like "are we still a family?" And I think Rick wanted to do something that was his version [of Trouble] and I think a lot of us weren't ready to do that. But it's just the way history goes. I think that this [new] version is something that Bruce kind of wanted to work on with Rick as well and then what you get is a type of Trouble that the guitar players wrote. Remember the KISS solo records that were kind of cool? Like Ace's album was fucking awesome. I think it's sort of like that in a way. I think there's band drama behind the scenes a little bit, but I don't think its as radical as bands that really fight each other and embarrass each other in public, in magazines and interviews. I don't think it's that bad. And I just think it's creativity, people wanting to do things their own way and differently. And our fingers are all crossed at a huge reunion…almost like the Jethro Tull reunion or the Yes reunion. You know on those DVDs where there's like 20 people at a banquet and they're all talking about the different albums? **Laughs**

RH: Bruce has jammed with my band Earthen Grave a bunch of times. He's best friends with our guitar player. And he's jammed with Eric [in Blackfinger] and he and I have jammed with Eric. So we're all still really close, we're still family. Trouble is still a family and we're just kind of like the other brother who is going off and starting his own thing. **Laughs** So we're all good that way and I understand what they're doing. It's still Trouble and they want to do a record and they've got one of my best friends singing for them now…Kyle Thomas. They just want to continue what they're doing, so as far as the relationship goes, I still talk to Bruce and have no problem. The other guy…it's whatever. **Laughs** That's all I can say about that.

HP: Was there ever any thought of you guys trying to reunite with Bruce and Rick?

EW: No not really. They're doing their thing. They're working on a new record and that's what they want to do and that's cool…and I'm cool with that and we just wanted to do our thing and get a couple of guys that fit in nice and just go out and do those old songs. It's been a long time and I think the doom thing is kind of happening right now and it's just been a lot of fun. I can't wait until we start rehearsing those songs again, it's been a long time since we got to do those.

JO: They [Bruce and Rick] have a project...Trouble has a project that they need to finish and show the fans. So they're still honing that project. They want it to be the quality and level that they want and we want to get on with a 30 year anniversary here and get the ball rolling and start getting ourselves in shape for the celebration of 30 years of Trouble's music and Eric's lyrics. The different types of drumming, the different types of bass playing and parts and double leads and those things. And then our project...The Skull's new Trouble sound…will be coming out. And then there should hopefully be a giant collision of all the guys again...I hope. That's my hope…a bygones will be bygones collision some day for fans, for people that like Trouble. I don't know how many there actually are out there, but we have a lot of friends and fans that love our history and the different types of Trouble...the rock n roll Trouble, the super heavy, old metal Trouble...you know almost Iron Maiden/Merciful Fate like…and then the slow, doomy, grungy Trouble. The progression of Trouble...there were so many variations.

RH: I had a reunion set up, two different shows with the original band. [One at] Kuma's [Corner], a good burger joint here in Chicago, it's a metal burger joint that was gonna pay us good money to reform and [another at] Roadburn. And basically, those guys [Bruce and Rick] pulled out. So like I said, I tried twice already and Rick pulled the plug on both of them. I can understand his reasonings, no ill will towards him about that at all. It's just that, we're not getting any younger...and the thing is, we really are more in tune with what the fans want...and they want to hear the old stuff. And why not, you know, we all have our other bands...and we're doing well. My record is coming out April 28 as a matter of fact…the Earthen Grave record. So this is kind of like…let's just do this for fun, no other weird reasons or anything. Let's go out and play some of the old tunes and have fun. But the door is open. We asked Bruce, right before we started this…"would you like to be a part of it?" And he'd like to finish the [Trouble] record and I can totally understand that. Whenever those two guys want to join up with the three of us, we're ready. Actually we're gonna be more ready because we're gonna know all the songs. **Laughs** If they want to do it, it's gonna be an easy transition.

HP: Can you talk a little bit about the guitar players for The Skull, Lothar Keller and Michael Carpenter from the band Sacred Dawn? How did you guys make the decision to bring them onboard?

JO: I always wanted to play with Glenn Drover (Megadeth) and Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper) [because I] thought that those two were very session oriented and that it might be a quick learn for them to be able to get songs together. And as we kept talking about it we found that it might be more difficult for them, even though they have the talent and it would have been awesome having those two up there. We felt that maybe the look and feel of [Keller and Carpenter] who have played together for 20 years, [would] solve [the problem of] two guys trying to hone themselves together, [because] these guys are already honed together...almost like just adding one person, but you're getting two. Lothar and Michael call each other all excited. They're digging this, so it's made the whole thing very fun.

RH: Lothar has actually run sound for Earthen Grave and plus Tony [Spillman] from Earthen Grave is really good friends with him. I've always been around him, he doesn't work that far from my house. We'd meet and have lunch at this bikini bar that we go to. **Laughs** He's a really cool guy, great guitar player and somebody I know and get along with. And Eric knew him through his people so it makes it real easy.

EW: I personally wanted to be a band. I never really wanted just to hire people. I like being in a band with the possibility of maybe even doing a record. I talked to [Lothar] and I told him if there's anybody he knows that he'd like to play with to let us know because we need another guy. I didn't even really think of Michael at first, but then when he brought his name up and said that they'd been playing together for 20 years and known each other for 25 I thought, "well that's perfect." And when I talked to Michael about it, he said "yeah Lothar and I know each other so well that we answer each other's sentences when we play together." And I'm thinking that's just perfect. My expectations have now exceeded my hopes, because it's twin guitar, just like we had. That's a lot of what made Rick and Bruce good is that they've been playing together for so long and they played off each other well. So I think that was a perfect thing to do for us, to get a team like that.

HP: You're calling the band "The Skull", which is obviously a reference to Trouble's classic second album. Does that mean that's what you guys are going to focus on in terms of material when you play live or will you expand and play from the entire catalogue?

RH: At first we were thinking about doing choice songs off of all the records. Then I did kind of an informal survey of about 20 big time Trouble fans that I've known over the years and that I really trust. I sent out an email [saying] "I want to hear the 13 songs that you would like to hear us play on the first tour and the 5 songs that you don't want to hear us play." And basically I got all the lists within an hour…it was amazing. We made a setlist from that and predominantly it's from Psalm 9 and The Skull. So we decided to do the majority of those songs and there's a couple of later songs from Plastic Green Head. We want to do a couple off of that because that's the only record all three of us actually played on together. Which is pretty trippy. I just scratch my head [when I] think about that. So we're gonna concentrate on the first two records and maybe pull out "Last Judgement", the song that the band got signed to Metal Blade with…it was on Metal Massacre [IV]. We're just gonna add a little bit here and there each time, just to change it up. That's one of the complaints we always got was that Trouble played the same songs all the time, so we want to change that aspect of it.

JO: And then all of the heavy doom side of any of the other albums. Maybe the unusual songs that haven't been heard for a long while from Manic and mainly Plastic Green Head. Some super heavy songs that we just didn't do live that are on that…"Opium - Eater", "Another Day", things like that maybe. What's fun is Eric's got freedom to really enjoy this [and] to create the setlists. I like giving him that part of it. He's real creative and it makes it fun to change it. It used to drive us kind of [crazy]…"aw, we're changing it again?" **Laughs** I kind of like that now. It's a whole new way of looking at Trouble. Let's change it up for people so they can hear songs that they maybe have never heard before.

EW: At first it was kind of like…let's just do the old shit. And then we were like, well [the fans] probably want to hear a little bit of everything. But you know, [Trouble] does that stuff so I think we're back to concentrating on the first two records and probably a couple off of Plastic Green Head. Some of the guys [in Trouble] never really wanted to do that old stuff anymore…with seven records, we had a lot of material. But it's been kind of fun listening to those songs again and learning them. There's a couple that we're doing that we probably haven't done in 25 years. We just thought maybe people would like to hear that again and that would set us apart from Trouble because they don't do that stuff. We wanted to be our own [thing]. Even though we're using the old Trouble songs as a spring board and everything, I wanted The Skull to have its own identity, separate from [Trouble]. So I think we're doing it, I think that's what's going on right now and we've been getting a lot of good response from it and a lot of exciting things are happening.

HP: Any chance we'll get to hear The Skull played in it's entirety?

EW: We've been talking about that. That's something I always wanted to do. Even a long time ago I said "man that would be so cool to play that record in its entirety"…like 20 years ago. We never really did it, but we've been knocking that around. At first we're just gonna do stuff from both records [Psalm 9 and The Skull], but eventually I think, at least once, I'd like to do that. Especially "The Wish". In its entirety? I've been dying to do that! I know people would love it. I'd even freak out about it.

HP: Eric, you mentioned possibly doing a record. Is that in the works? Do you think The Skull will record or write music together?

EW: Well we're kind of talking about it. I mean obviously it is a progression and it would be good to do that. [Again], that's my favorite part about being in a band anyway is writing music and making a record. I love starting from nothing and creating something like that. So we've been talking about it and everybody has been writing on their own. We'll see what happens. We're taking this one step at a time, making sure that we're making all the right decisions. But I would love to and hopefully that'll all work out.

JO: Another thing that's making this really a blast is Eric likes to focus more on creating new music, it's one of his favorite things to do. I mean he's a producer in the Chicago area. It's just what he loves to do. Him and [long time Trouble producer] Vinny Wojno, those two love creating music and laying down tracks. And we love to write music, so it's great. I'd say we might like the studio thing a little more [than playing live]. We need that. We need to do something fresh for people that have always liked Trouble's music. We want to make sure that it's still heavy and exciting and that it has quality.

RH: [Recording] came into play recently too when we were going to have guest guitar players join us. We started to think about the long term of this and executing together and doing a record. We [decided to] get two guys that we are gonna have throughout the whole thing. That's another reason we wanted to get Michael [Carpenter]. But yeah, Eric called me at 6:30 this morning and he's like "dude, dude let's start writing" and I'm like "dude…let me get my coffee man." He's ready to write a record right now. He said he's got four or five songs close and I'm like "okay, slow down." But yeah, as you can see the enthusiasm for doing a record is there and its gonna happen. **Laughs**

HP: I'm excited to hear new music from you guys.

RH: It's gonna be good because we're playing the first two records [live] and we'll have that style integrated into what we're doing and in our minds. So writing new stuff, it's just naturally gonna come out sounding like those two records. Each section of the Trouble years that we picked to concentrate and play music from, it's gonna affect the writing. So this record might be kind of like a mish mash of the whole Trouble career. So it should make everybody happy. And who knows what guests we're gonna have play with us on the record, which we're definitely gonna make happen. Maybe Bruce will want to jam with us by then. Who knows what's gonna happen down the road. We're open and ready to rock.

HP: You've announced a handful of dates that you're going to be playing, mostly festivals here in the US and in Germany. Are there plans for a full scale tour?

EW: We're probably going to fill in a couple of things around those dates. I don't see us going out on tour for the next year or anything like that. The one in Germany in July is a one off and we're gonna do a Chicago date before that.

RH: There's two in Germany actually, two different festivals. The Hammer of Doom Fest and the Hell's Pleasure Fest…which sounds interesting. I think one is with Angel Witch and the other one I think we're playing with Pentagram, which I'm ecstatic. I have two Chicago area shows that we haven't listed yet that will probably be going up within the next week.

EW: The Days of the Doomed Fest in June is more like a one off, but in September when we do SHoD [Stoner Hands of Doom] Fest, there will be some other dates around that and the same in November with Hammer of Doom in Germany. We were a little late for a lot of the festivals this year, so next year we're planning on doing a lot of stuff too.

JO: For us, "full" [tours] are ten date kind of jaunts. [We'll do] a couple warm ups before we fly over to Germany in July. It gets us practicing together with the new guitar players. It's gonna be cool.

HP: I'm local to the DC/Maryland area so I'm hoping you guys come my way.

RH: That's one of them. I'm checking into the Sonar [Baltimore]. What I suggested was to have The Skull, Iron Man, Earthen Grave and Earthride. To me that would be a fun show at the Sonar, don't you think?

HP: That would be fantastic.

RH: Well we'll see if that happens. That's what I'm working on. I don't know if its gonna happen, but that's the show I'd like to have. But we definitely want to play what we call the doom capitol of the world and that's the Washington DC area. Everybody knows what DC stands for. **Laughs**

EW: It's really ironic, I remember going there…I don't know if it was Baltimore or DC where we actually played in '85 with The Skull album. And we were kind of freaking out when we got there because it was definitely the doom capitol of the United States right then. So when the SHoD Fest came about, I kept telling the guys we have to book a show down there. Definitely…so that's one of them we're working on. Cleveland would be another one since that was one of our best cities too.

JO: When we went down there [to DC], we were surprised…boy were we surprised. We played with The Obsessed…man…a lot of people were at that show. What a great place. It's just a very powerful heavy metal place, punk place…you know Bad Brains…Fugazi…even Grohl coming out of there…and just…what a place that part of the U.S. is.

HP: One of the things that I think is cool is that you guys are scheduling shows that feature The Skull in addition to your other bands. At the Days of the Doomed Fest, Blackfinger is gonna be there as well as Earthen Grave. And up in Connecticut at SHoD, Retro Grave is gonna play. Can you talk a little about your other projects?

EW: Yeah, I'm hoping to have [the Blackfinger album available] for download in April. It's just about finished being mixed, so I'm hoping that it's out in April. I'd like to get it out. I've been working on it for a little over four years now from starting to write to putting the guys together. The album's coming out next month and we'll probably do some shows. I don't know if we'll tour with it.

HP: Was there ever any talk about having the two guitar players from Blackfinger join you in The Skull?

EW: No, not really, they're different. And I'm not so sure with their work and family situations if they can tour. At first [Blackfinger] just started out being an album, a project, but we have done a few shows with it and so far we've gotten a good response so I'm hoping by Days of the Doomed Fest it'll be out and people will know the songs.

HP: I heard the one song "All the Leaves are Brown" and I like it a lot.

EW: Yeah, cool…thank you.

RH: Well Earthen Grave is my priority like Blackfinger is Eric's priority and Retro Grave is Jeff's priority. And we're just doing The Skull as added fun. So yeah all those bands, we all have records coming out. Blackfinger's record is coming out. Earthen Grave, I'm putting out on my own label as a matter of fact. We're releasing it next month, so I'll send you all kinds of details for your website. Do you do reviews?

HP: Certainly

RH: I'll send you a cd, you'll dig it. We have Rachel Barton Pine, the classical violinist playing with us, playing metal [on an] electric violin…it's crazy. So we're trying to keep the bands inter-joined. When we start distancing them, it becomes a problem, but when we keep it together it makes it a smooth, nice working environment. When you start to separate it, you feel like you're cheating on your girlfriend and you feel guilty for playing with your band. Like the other day, Jason (the guitar player from Earthen Grave) and I were doing artwork for the record that we're doing and the guitar player from my other band, My Cold Dead Hand, walked in. Then I got a conference call from Eric and Oly at the same time. So I'm talking to Eric and Oly and my two guitar players from other bands are there…man, I felt really dirty at that moment. **Laughs** I'm gonna see if I can get Earthen Grave to play a couple of the shows going up to the SHoD Fest and then we can ride out with Retro Grave at the end of it. We're [also] gonna jam with Blackfinger. And we're doing a show with Sacred Dawn as a matter of fact...in Chicago. I guess we are including all of the bands.

HP: Other than Earthen Grave, you have another band called My Cold Dead Hand?

RH: Yeah its a darker kind of a thing. I jam with a guy from a band called Wicker Man, the singer/guitar player. It's like a Nick Cave meets…not Bauhaus…man, it's just dark. Its doomy but its more musical. We have that record done and I'll probably put that out on my record label as well as soon as I get done with the Earthen Grave one.

HP: Jeff, you have another band, or duo to be exact called Retro Grave.

JO: Yeah Retro Grave is fun. I started it with a wine maker guy [Paull Goodchild] when I was making champagne down in Massachusetts. I started it a long time ago, writing lyrics that were kind of witty and funny and doomy. And then I just started writing music over the top of that, just by myself, so the first EP is all me except for one guest on there, a guy from [the band] Planet Gemini called H from New Bedford, Mass...a really nice guy. Great, doomy band. And he helped me kind of finish my project rather than it sitting around all the time. But the lyric writer [Goodchild] is almost like the silent third member of the band. He helps make decisions lyrically and he's really funny. We tried to do it with a full band but it just didn't have the feel that was unique and different. So we made it a duo, with just Michael Leonard Maiewski [on guitar]…who we call Onion. **Laughs** He just has that way of moving around the pedal board and all these different amps…one thing hooked to another, and it sounds like a bass player, a lead guitar player, a rhythm guitar...and its one dude doing it! Man it's tight and the sound that we have...people haven't heard it yet because it has a live sound that is so much heavier than what I tried to do by myself using a direct amp. I tuned low and I had heavy implications, but a lot of my progressive, classical and jazz sides came out a little bit. **Laughs** People thought the albums were a little too experimental and maybe too mellow, but I kind of like dynamics. I like things to get mellow and weird and I like obscure things. This album we're working on is called Skullduggery and right now there's over 25 songs we've gotta hone down into an LP...we have to cut a lot.

HP: It sounds really cool, so in a live setting it's just the two of you?

JO: Yes. It's loud...it's screaming. It's like if you go see Sunn O))) or Jucifer or those kinds of duos. It's similar in lineup that way, as far as power goes. It's easy, I sing and drum and I do a little guitar work with feedback...sort of the Type O Negative kind of thing. I do a little creative work with the sustainer [on my guitar] and so we actually have a cool, two guitar, spacey sound during parts of the show. And Onion's band Stasis will also be performing [at SHoD]...you get to see the two versions of that. You get to see Retro Grave, Stasis and you get to see The Skull. It's too bad Blackfinger and Earthen Grave couldn't be at those [shows] too, because then you'd get to see [them all]. They are different bands too, all the styles are completely different from each other.

HP: Speaking of different styles, in my mind Trouble went through three different eras so to speak. You had those first few albums with Psalm 9, The Skull and Run to the Light and then there was the 90's with the self-titled record, Manic Frustration and Plastic Green Head and then finally there was the most recent era with Simple Mind Condition. Within that scope, what is your favorite era or album by Trouble?

JO: **Laughs** I love that question. I really love Run to the Light and I wasn't on it. But you have to understand, we used to play a lot of those songs [during] The Skull era. You know, not "Piece of Mind" and not Tuesday, but the beginning ["The Misery Shows"], I played that live and I loved playing that as a drummer. I used to have keyboards behind the drums…kind of a thing we would do for sound effects in between. Yeah, the answer to that is probably not what you would think. I really would love to have been in a solid production of Run to the Light. I wish I wouldn't have missed that. It's kind of my regretted missed album.

RH: We're probably gonna tackle [Run to the Light] down the road also because a lot of people want to hear those songs.

EW: Each era was good. I don't know if I really have a favorite. Probably the biggest era of it was the two on Def American [self-titled and Manic Frustration]. We toured with Pantera and all kinds of people. So that was probably the biggest stage of it. And I always wanted to grow too. People always ask me, are you gonna make another album like The Skull? And how can I? We can't. At least for me, writing lyrics, that time in my life is over and this is now. [The time] between Plastic Green Head in '95 and Simple Mind Condition was what, 12 years? There's a lot that happened in those 12 years. I can't speak for everybody, but at least for me, I never wrote a certain way or sat down and said I'm gonna write like this, it's just what came out and what was going on in my life at that particular time. So obviously it's gonna make them all different.

RH: It's hard because of my positioning, being in the background but working for them on the first two records. But the whole part of The Skull was just incredible. Just watching them put that record together and record it, they didn't even realize what they were doing [at the time]. I'm [thinking] "this is incredible" and these guys are just going "eh" like all nonchalant. They're just regular dudes rocking out. So that record is really special to me. The Def American ones…I was on them, but that whole part of our lives was just…you know…touring so much, videos, the whole thing, it was just incredible. And Green Head was a weird time but as I've been listening to it lately I [think] "man it was a lot better than I remembered."

HP: It aged really well didn't it?

RH: Yeah it holds up really well and I'm like "God this was pretty damn good."

HP: Ron, you kind of answered my next question. I believe you joined Trouble back in 1986 right after The Skull was released and I was gonna ask how you knew Eric and Jeff?

RH: It was around that time because I was actually working for them. I was with them on the whole Skull tour and the recording sessions. Sean [McAllister] actually used my bass on that record which is pretty funny. **Laughs** So I was kind of part of the family for years. I think it was '86, I think you're right. I met Oly first, years ago. I went to high school with their number one roadie and he told me "man you gotta check out this band, because you love Sabbath, I know you'd like them." And he turned me onto [Trouble], but I didn't meet them until a concert [when] he introduced me to Oly. We hit it off right away, because how can you not like Oly? He's the funniest, nicest person in the world. It might have been at a Mountain concert I do believe, but my memory is for shit. **Laughs** But then I got brought in and I went to see them and met everybody and just started working for them.

HP: During your time in the band, you played with four different drummers, so as the bass player and part of the rhythm section, was it difficult to adjust to each of them?

RH: Not so much, to me it seemed pretty natural and easy. My brother was a drummer growing up and he was really into progressive drummers like King Crimson and Yes and stuff like that which was really complex. I'd hear him playing that stuff all the time and pretty much it was in my head, all these weird ways of playing. So to me, it didn't seem like that drastic of a difference. My knowledge and just inner playing ability kind of meshed with whatever drummer, so it was never a problem. Barry [Stern] was really hyper, we always had to try to slow him down a little bit because he'd get excited. **Laughs** Which is okay. But Jeff and Barry, I'm so happy to have been able to play with two drummers like that in my career. [They are] two of the best metal drummers there ever was, so I'm pretty damn lucky. They were the shit.

JO: Barry is an extraordinary drummer…like talented. Me…I have to plot it out and rehearse like crazy and then finally I'm tight and then strong. I'm a different type of drummer. [With] Barry, it just comes right out unbelievable, it just flies out of him. Great drummer.

HP: Jeff you live in Maine. How did you come to be in a band from Chicago?

JO: I lived [in Chicago] from 1967 through the 80's. I went to high school with Bruce, so I would go see their band Wise Crack and I played hockey with Bruce and rode dirt bikes and goofed around and hung out with their band. Eric sang for them and then they followed an ad and joined Trouble. I was in a [different] band and they asked me to come and fill in and I've been there ever since. And the history goes on. **Laughs** But I moved back to New England [because] I was born out here. And this is where I work with Retro Grave and my little show, Heady Metal and I work at a brewery, Allagash Brewing Company.

HP: That's good beer…what do you do with Allagash?

JO: I ship all the beer to all of our distribution [sites] throughout the U.S. They're only located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and then the whole Eastern seaboard. That job is just awesome, it's a career for me other than teaching music. Once I got out of Berkley I was always with either wine or beer companies. I've never been ashamed of work other than music. Some people felt they didn't really make it as a musician because they have to work, but you have to sometimes. [There are] people you wouldn't believe have jobs out there…the guys from Paradise Lost...they have regular working jobs and then they go and do all those tours and their music never wanes because of it.

HP: Tell me about Heady Metal.

JO: We [Jeff and his wife Leigh] created that to try and keep in the lime [light] so that we don't just disintegrate. It's hard to promote yourself these days. There's tons and tons and tons of music out there.

HP: You're so right, it's unbelievable.

JO: There's a fast pace, you almost have to make news everyday. Leigh manages and does everything for me and keeps me in line. It just makes it so much easier that I can focus on the music or I can focus on the interviews and do all my editing in Pro Tools and stuff. We started out thinking we needed to be on a radio station, so we went on Metal Messiah radio, which was awesome...it was really cool. And then we decided that maybe we should be a little more pro and create a blog. I get to interview some of my favorite musicians. I can't tell you...I'm sure this feels the same with you in a way, but isn't it exciting to talk to people who…you've loved their albums your whole life? It's kind of freaky isn't it? **Laughs**

HP: Yeah it's unbelievable. In fact at the end of last year when the Kyuss Lives! thing had just kicked off, I got to talk to Brant Bjork who..well…I love Kyuss so when I called him up I got all nervous because I can't believe I'm about to talk to Brant Bjork, you know? But you have to be able to hold it together and ask the questions.

JO: **Laughs** I love that. That's one of the most fun parts of this whole thing. I get so nervous. I run around waiting. Especially like today I had to call you.

HP: I'll give it to you, Eric and Ron though, you were all right on time, which makes it a lot less nerve racking. **Laughs**

RH: I guess we're doing better then. Turned over a new leaf and we're starting to do everything the right way. **Laughs**

HP: Well listen, we're real excited to hear new music from The Skull and definitely to see the shows when you guys start this tour.

EW: Cool, we'll have a beer. Good talking to you dude.

JO: It's great talking to you. Call or write anytime, its fine with us.

RH: Toby thanks and you take care man.

The Skull will be appearing at the following locations, but be sure to keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for more shows to be announced soon. Also, don't forget to check out the music of Earthen Grave, Blackfinger and Retro Grave and if you want to hear some killer interviews and all sorts of other cool stuff, head on over to Heady Metal with Jeff Olson.

June 16 - Days of the Doomed Festival - Cudahy, Wisconsin
July 14 - Reggie's Rock Club - Chicago, Illinois
July 21 - Hell's Pleasure Festival - Pößneck, Germany
September 1 - Stoner Hands of Doom Festival - New London, Connecticut
November 10 - Hammer of Doom Festival - Würzburg, Germany
Southern California's IN THIS MOMENT has set "Blood" as the title of its fourth album, due this summer via longtime label Century Media Records. The CD was once again produced by Kevin Churko, who has previously worked with OZZY OSBOURNE and FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, among others.

IN THIS MOMENT began work on the new album just a few months following the departures of drummer Jeff Fabb and guitarist Blake Bunzel, who left the band late last year in order to join the backing group of "American Idol" finalist James Durbin. Fabb and Bunzel have since been replaced by Tom Hane (THYATEIRA) and Randy Weitzel (FLATLINE, 3/13, AMERICAN MASSACRE), respectively.

Commented IN THIS MOMENT frontwoman Maria Brink: "There are no words to describe how excited we are... We are on fire with this record. It's by far the most powerful material we have ever written.

"IN THIS MOMENT has gone through some big changes. I admit sometimes change is scary, especially when facing the unknown, but in this case everything has been perfectly meant to be. It's a brave, dark, hard-hitting album that will make you feel dirty inside, but still wanting more."

Added guitarist Chris Howorth: "Over the last six months, we have undergone some interesting changes within the band. As a result, Maria and I were brought closer together united in our mutual determination to top everything we have previously done with IN THIS MOMENT. It's our fourth album and we definitely have something to prove this time. During the writing process Maria, Kevin and I are pushing ourselves to make sure every song is something unique and special. I honestly feel this is the most focused and powerful music we have ever created and I am beyond psyched to get it out there for people to hear."

In a recent interview with Australia's Loud magazine, Maria stated about IN THIS MOMENT's new material, "We brought some stuff to the table that we've never done before and it really sounds like something special, something new. I can't explain it; I mean, if you know our old music, when you hear the new stuff you're going to go, 'Holy shit, okay, I totally get it.' But I don't want to give away anything either, it's just unique; it's something new we've brought to the table. We found something special within us; we found this certain thing, so I'm excited for it."

Regarding IN THIS MOMENT's split with Fabb and Bunzel, Brink said, "You know how sometimes, you don't realize sometimes something happening (that's) traumatic, that it can be the most beautiful thing that could have happened to you? It's like one of those situations. It got really stripped back down to me and Chris [Howorth, guitar], and me and Chris started this band together, just me and him, and then it was like everybody came to the table, everybody brings their own influence. I believe it was all meant to be, all of those albums with them. I love them, I wish them the best. But it was almost like this new, with just me and Chris, this new fire, this new strength within me that I just… magical things started happening between what we started creating. And it's just so meant to be; it's meant to be that they moved on and some other things in my life, it's so cool 'cause it's just like this brand new everything and it feels really awesome. And you're going to be able to hear it."

IN THIS MOMENT took a short break from recording to play at the Soundwave Festival in Australia and has since returned to the studio. Upon completion of the new album and in advance of the summer touring season, the band will head out on a brief run of American tour dates in May including an appearance at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio.
Mark Morton of the Heavy Metal Examiner recently conducted an interview with drummer Steve Flynn and vocalist Kelly Shaefer of seminal technical metal pioneers ATHEIST. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Heavy Metal Examiner: What is the mission statement of ATHEIST now?

Shaefer: When Steve went to college, I always felt there was some unfinished business there. We had definitely not tapped the well; we were just starting to get our stride. For me, the songwriting was starting to get ferocious. I see this as a continuation of that era. I am not very far removed from the era when we were writing "Unquestionable Presence". For me, it was like two days ago. When we play, we are still in that headspace, only now, we have all these new weapons. Although we used a different drummer on "Elements", it still retained that ATHEIST integrity. We wrote that album really quickly. So, to have Steve Flynn back on drums, I am completely elated. And the last thing we want to do is fuck up the integrity of what we created back then.

Heavy Metal Examiner: When you decided to create a new album ["Jupiter"] after reuniting, did you have any fears of ruining the legacy you inadvertently created?

Shaefer: Oh definitely, that was the exact fear. When we did the reunion shows, we were just paying tribute to the catalogue. But everyone was asking for a new record, and we all lived 500 miles apart. So it really took the right situation for us to even be able to do it. But after a successful run of shows and festivals, the label was able to put together a budget that would make it work. I went to Atlanta and got in a room together with Steve to see what would happen, and the first thing that came out was "Second To Sun". It was as if we had gone back in time. I ended up having to fly to Atlanta about 15 times. Now, the other question was, "Is anyone going to like ATHEIST 20 years later?" That had remained to be seen. But hey, we just do what we do, and there's only one way we do it. We knew in our hearts that everything was going to be fine; the hard part was convincing everyone else.

Heavy Metal Examiner: And I'm sure, in the back of your minds, the sting of people hating you when you were in the game before still lingered.

Shaefer: People always hate what they don't understand, and any type of complexity at all was not welcomed back then. Everybody wanted straight-forward, brutal, knuckle-dragging metal. So, to bring any kind of intellect to that was certainly not welcomed with open arms. There is a little part of me that wishes people would have understood it sooner, but I don't think it would have made this nearly as special. It's always easier to look back in hindsight, but at the time, we were living through it, having dog food thrown at us, getting booed off the stage; I was not a happy guy back then. Nobody wants to come out and play their music and get that kind of reaction, especially when you work really hard on it. We were just trying to do something different, which typically should be welcomed in art, but it wasn't. So, I'm just glad the scene progressed, and actually progressed beyond what I would have ever imagined. It's one of the coolest movements I've witnessed, to see the music create its own legacy, without us out there supporting it. We never watered the plant, but it grew into a tree anyway.

Heavy Metal Examiner: When you sat down to put "Jupiter" together, did you have any forethought into how it might end up sounding? I know a lot of people said that it was a cross between "Unquestionable Presence" and "Elements", but I took it to sound closer to a missing link between "Piece Of Time" and "Unquestionable Presence".

Shaefer: Well, I believe it's a more technical record than "Unquestionable Presence"; it just doesn't sound like it. The riffing and time signatures are actually much more intricate than they were on "Unquestionable". I had written a lot of different songs over the years with various inspirations, and when I came back to write this kind of music, I think that had an impression on the way it ended up being put together, vocally especially. And it probably made it the catchiest thing we've ever done. Sure, some people are going to have problems with the vocals, especially kids who came into this genre from other bands and are finding out about us through "Jupiter", but I've never had a deep growl; I'm just not that kind of vocalist. But anyone who is familiar with ATHEIST knows that's always been the vocal style, and that we've never been the cookie-monster type.

Heavy Metal Examiner: Well, that's one of the things I always appreciated about ATHEIST is that the vocals were always more reptilian than demonic.

Shaefer: [Laughs] That's a great analogy. There's much more emotion and passion in the higher end vocal style, which is actually kinda rare in extreme music. It's very tortured, with a lot of agony, frustration, and concern in my voice. I think it just makes the album more honest. When we were writing it, I knew that I wasn't going to have to play guitar while I was singing, so I was able to loosely place the vocal lines, and that was never the case with the other albums. It really allowed me to go against the grain; which ultimately created a much catchier listen, because it wasn't syncopated with all these technical riffs. I also believe that, musically, "Jupiter" is the most explosive we've ever done, and that has a lot to do with the production of today, which allowed us to be able to do things we weren't able to do before. It's so clean and crisp, and it's really nice to be able to hear all the articulation.
Singers Dani "Filth" Davey (CRADLE OF FILTH) and Björn "Speed" Strid (SOILWORK) make guest appearances on the new EP from British vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva — who has toured and/or recorded with CRADLE OF FILTH, THERION, MORTIIS and ANGTORIA. Entitled "Malediction", the three-song digital EP will be released in May via Listenable Records. Strid sings a duet with Sarah in the song "Lies Define Us", while Davey can be heard in the track "This Is My Curse", a video for which will be follow during the coming weeks.

Commented Deva: "I have to admit, [Dani] worked his arse off for ['This Is My Curse'] and it shows. It was honestly a real pleasure singing together again."

Sarah Jezebel Deva's solo album, "The Corruption Of Mercy", was released in the U.S. on August 30, 2011. The CD was released in Europe on June 27, 2011 via Listenable Records. The cover art for the effort was created by CRADLE OF FILTH artist Matt Lombard and comes in a slipcase due to its slightly "dark/close-to-the-mark" nature.

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