Very few bands of today keep that genuine, in-your-face vitality of hard rock afloat. Rising from the gutters of Gothenburg, Sweden in 2002, the female-fronted, SISTER SIN are undeniably a fresh and powerful driving force among their peers.
Sister Sin recently released their 3rd full-length album, “True Sound of the Underground,” and have just embarked on a US tour as direct support for THE MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP.
“It’s going to be fun touring with Michael Schenker,” exclaimed vocalist Liv Sin. “He’s a very talented guitarist and I’m looking forward to checking out his performances.” Beyond the Dark Horizon spoke with Liv Sin regarding the tour, new album and her witty, powerful vocal skills.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Did Sister Sin just arrive in New York?
Liv: We arrived last night, had a full nights sleep and are going to check out some guitars and equipment in a bit. Our first show is Sunday night, so we have time to relax and enjoy the city.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Coming from Sweden, is it a little stressful preparing for a US tour?
Liv: It’s always a little stressful when you’re going to travel for a tour and not sure how it’s going to end. This is our 3rd US tour and we’re getting used to things and now know what’s waiting for us here.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: From what I understand, you’re also a model and personal trainer. Are you able to get your work-out fix on the road?
Liv: I try to work out as much as possible while out on the road but it depends on how far the drive is and if I have the time for it. But I really try to make time for it; I’m a real train-a-holic! I can honestly say that. I have to train; otherwise I get depressed [laughs].
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What do you look forward to when touring in the US?
Liv: I look forward to everything while being out on the road. It gets a little tiring when you have a 7 to 9 hour drive but when you have a 3 or 4 hour flight, it’s nice-Watching landscapes and arriving at a show.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: On stage you possess a great flamboyance of confidence and have a power voice. Was this something you had to buildup throughout the years or did it come naturally?
Liv: I’ve always had the confidence and power but just had to train my voice. If anything I have to try to not over power it [laughs]. That’s my problem at times and my voice gets hurt. But it’s all part of my personality.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How do you mange to keep your voice in tact; any particular routine for remedy?
Liv: My style of singing can be very harmful to the voice, so I have to take care of it. I don’t drink alcohol while on tour (only if I have 1-2 days off in between), I don’t smoke and I always have my honey. I can’t live without my honey. I drink water mixed with honey before I get on stage. Every second day, I try to keep quiet and don’t talk before the show. This is what has been keeping my voice in shape and it’s been working. I want to give 100% or more at every show. I try my best to keep things professional in my line of work and to do that, I have to do these things.
Beyond the Dark Horizon:When did you first start singing and discover that you wanted to take a musical career path?
Liv: I began singing at the age of seventeen and started out playing guitar before that. But I ended up giving up on guitar because I didn’t think I was good at it and focused on singing.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Do you attribute your up bringing and Sweden’s culture as a direct influence or inspiration in any way?
Liv: Absolutely. People here in Sweden are down to earth and very musical people. Personally, I was raised to play an instrument and around here we have great schools for music and theater. I think it’s great because we have the foundation to be great in the arts.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Can you tell us about the Sister Sin setlist for this tour? I’m assuming you will perform many tracks from your latest album, True Sound of the Underground?
Liv: Yes, this time around we’re choosing the tracks off the new album that we like the most and of course we’ll play stuff from our previous records. Expect lots of energy, pure rock n roll music and a great stage show because we always deliver.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I really enjoyed “True Sound of the Underground,” it’s a very aggressive album, compared to your previous release. What are your thoughts on the album?
Liv: Yes, “True Sound of the Underground” is more aggressive than our last record but that’s what we wanted from the beginning. It’s the sound that we have been looking for throughout the years and I’m glad we found it now. We were extremely satisfied with the songs, production and how everything turned out with this new record.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Sister Sin also happens to be searching for a new bassist; how has the search been coming along?
Liv: Hard to say at this point but there are some bass players that we’re looking into and hopefully one of them will fit us musically and personally.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Whats in store for Sister Sin after your tour with The Michael Schenker Group?
Liv: After this tour we will be back home in Sweden for 2 weeks and then off to tour a few dates with Black Label Society and ill niño. So we’ll be back in the US around September/October.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Last words are yours. Anything you would like to say to those who will be checking out Sister Sin for the first time?
Liv: Just come out and have a great time. If you like old school metal like Motorhead, pick up our album-it’s hard heavy and just rocks!
Swedish female-fronted heavy rock band SISTER SIN will support MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP on the following U.S. dates:
Jul. 15 – Brixton – Redondo Beach, CA
Jul. 16 – Galaxy Theatre – Santa Ana, CA
Jul. 17 – Angels Roadhouse – Yucaipa, CA
Jul. 18 – Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
Jul. 21 – Backstage Live – San Antonio, TX
Jul. 22 – 18th Street Bar & Grill – San Leon, TX
Jul. 23 – Trees – Dallas, TX
Jul. 27 – Showcase Live – Foxboro, MA
Jul. 28 – Altar Bar – Pittsburgh, PA
Jul. 29 – Starland Ballroom – Sayerville, NJ
Jul. 30 – Jaxx – Springfield, VA
Jul. 31 – The Fillmore At Irving Plaza – New York, NY
Aug. 01 – Crazy Donkey – Farmingdale, NY
Aug. 03 – House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
Aug. 04 – Scatz Nightclub – Middleton, WI
Aug. 06 – Club Vegas – Salt Lake City, UT
Aug. 08 – Tower Theater – Fresno, CA
Aug. 11 – Studio Seven – Seattle, WA
Aug. 12 – Dante’s – Portland, OR
Aug. 13 – The Last Day Saloon – Santa Rosa, CA
Aug. 14 – Pepperbellys – Fairfield, CA
Aug. 15 – The Avalon – Santa Clara, CA
Aug. 17 – The Boardwalk – Orangevale, CA
Aug. 18 – The Coach House – San Juan Capistrano, CA
Aug. 19 – Key Club – West Hollywood, CA
Also appearing on the bill is LYNCH MOB.
Interview & Live Photos By BlissfulViolet
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Dream Theater has performed a few off shows with Iron Maiden throughout the years, but never a full tour-What has the experience been like so far?
James LaBrie: You’re right; we’ve done several shows with them over the years in Europe. It’s been at least 10 years since we first mentioned, “Gee we would love to do something through the states with you guys,” but it finally came together after trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule to make it happen. It’s different for us opening every single night, we’ve been headlining for such a long time now on our own. It’s just different for us to go out there and do a fifty minute set; it’s over within the blink of an eye (he explains with a snap of his finger). But it’s been a great experience, very intense and something we all dreamed of doing.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I honestly don’t even recall the last time Dream Theater performed in Texas, do you have any particular memories that come to mind?
James LaBrie: Texas has unfortunately eluded us quite often when we go out on tour- for whatever reasons. So it’s always great to come back, there’s many Dream Theater fans here, it’s just a matter of twisting the arms of promoters to bring us down more here, a little more regularly.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Is there been a certain process or routine that Dream Theater follows to prepare before a tour? How do you prepare vocally to keep your voice in tact?
James LaBrie: Everyone has their own way of preparing for tours and shows aside from rehearsal. I jog every day, take a lot of vitamins get plenty of sleep. I warm up before the show and cool down after. I drink a lot of liquids, don’t drink or smoke. All these things help me keep my voice in top shape.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: And what’s amazing is the fact that you have been singing since childhood.
James LaBrie: My family always found a way to get me involved with music. I was listening to music since the age of three and singing since the age of five-that’s for sure. According to my parents, I would always sit next to a radio and one day just started singing the lyrics to the songs that I knew. I remember putting on albums and I mean “albums,” LPS [laughs] and singing songs because I loved it. I fell in love with it from the very beginning.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What was it like growing up in Canada and coming from a family with a great musical background?
James LaBrie: My father used to sing and dance at a small local theater, my mother played piano, she still does, a little guitar as well. Her whole family and sisters would all sing. But my dad also sang in barbershop quartet, was in the church choir, so he’d even bring me there to sing with him. He also brought me along to the barbershop quartets, which were pretty cool because you were really able to focus on the sound of your voice compared to others, and really get a good feel from where you’re coming from as a vocalist.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: So that’s what initiated your passion for music…
James LaBrie: Yes and I also started playing drums when I was five and played until I was about seventeen. Throughout that time I had a music teacher that got me into singing contests and at the same time I was playing drums and got into my first rock band at the age of ten.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Are your children musically inclined as well?
James LaBrie: Absolutely, my son plays guitar and my daughter sings and studies; she’s doing fantastic and has a lovely voice. They’re both extremely involved with music and listen to it all the time-whether they’re in their bedrooms or walking around with an ipod, music is a huge part of their lives.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Dream Theater has always been a band that never repeats itself. Where does your latest release, “Dark Clouds and Silver Linings” take you?
Jame LaBrie: With that being said, we always want to challenge ourselves and strive to take us in a direction that’s expressing ourselves musically but differently. I think with this album, it was really cool because it was kind of like a toss back with some of our musical roots. There are songs on there that sound like they might be from the “A Change of Seasons,” and the “Awake” era. Even off the “Scenes of a Memory” with the song, “The Count of Tuscany.” I think it was a really cool, very contemporary sounding album but still remaining true and maintaining our identity.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Aside from Dream Theater, you recently announced the release of your new solo album, any details on that?
James LaBrie: It’s going to be called, “Static Pulse” and there will be 12 songs, on the album. It’s very heavy and I’m really excited. I don’t want to say too much about it at this point but were in the mixing stages and all the artwork is being done. It’s a great band and we have fantastic players. It should be out by mid/late September.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Do you plan to tour in support?
James LaBrie: I’m planning on touring in support but not too much since I’m always touring with Dream Theater. I would like everyone to know that this is a band, a unit and everyone involved is very passionate and serious about this and I think it would be exceptionally cool to get out on the road and do stuff on our own, but at the same time it would be a great idea to open up for a bigger band. We would basically do an in your face, balls to the wall and see you later deal.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Being Dream Theater’s frontman for 20 years, at the end of the day, what does the band and your work as a vocalist mean to you?
James LaBrie: It’s kind of weird, you wake up, speak to people like I’m speaking to you and realize that it’s the very thing that has given me the life that I have and it’s who I am. It’s bizarre in a way, you do fall into a groove and it’s like anything that you’ve done for awhile-it just becomes a norm. But every now and then, I am jarred by the whole situation; I’m like “hey, I sing for a living. I’m doing want many people dream of doing, I’m living it.” I think it really hits you when you go out on tour and perform before thousands of people. The energy and receptiveness of the crowd makes you realize what you do for people, it’s just incredible and I’m much honored to be part of something that I always aspired to be.
Beyond The Dark Horizon: Would you say that there is still so much more to accomplish in your career?
James LaBrie: There’s still plenty more that I need to discover about myself and attain-as a singer and musician. I’m always constantly changing how I approach songs vocally, the way that I can express myself. There’s still a lot for me to express and discover.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: In the past, you were studying under a vocal trainer-Are you still taking lessons to keep your voice fresh?
James LaBrie: Recently I saw Jamie Vendera, he’s incredible and full of vocal wisdom. From the warming up to utilizing the whole body to coincide with the way that the voice works and cooling down properly, he’s really incredible.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What has benefited you the most from these lessons? Is there anything that vocalists should take into consideration?
James LaBrie: The whole thing about warming up, taking your time and how to warm up. Just as important is the cool down, to bring your voice from a singing position back down into a speaking position. It’s something that many vocalists don’t do and their voice suffers because if it. Not taking the proper precautions can result in vocal fatigue. You also have to stretch yourself physically to get your body loose, relax and realize that they are both organic, they both need to feel balanced and be in sync with each other.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Thanks for sharing that with us, what’s next on the horizon for Dream Theater?
James LaBrie: After this tour there will be a few dates in Japan that will take place in August. I have a solo album coming up, Mike Portnoy will be playing drums on tour with Avenged Sevenfold and we are pretty much taking a break and relaxing with family until January. After that I’m thinking we will enter the studio and work on a new Dream Theater album.
Beyond the Dark Horizon recently spoke with vocalist Blaze Bayley about his new album, Promise And Terror. An excerpt from the story is available below:
There’s something about traditional heavy metal that has always left me heartfelt. Something about guitars roaring emphatic rhythms, while vigorous vocals transcend unity over a crowd-captivates me. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to speak with many inspiring artists who have shared their intriguing stories of dreams and strife-all in the name of heavy metal.
One man who has shown no sign of resentfulness or letting up is vocalist Blaze Bayley, who for five years was a member of the greatest heavy metal band in the world, Iron Maiden. Although media and fans found it difficult to accept Bayley as Bruce Dickinson’s replacement at the time, he still stood his ground until his dismissal in 1998-which left him no choice but to restart his career from dead scratch. Throughout the years Blaze Bayley bear the brunt of having various lineup changes with his band, Blaze. He was then ripped off by his record label which inspired him to take the route of becoming an independent artist. Most tragic was Bayley having to face the sudden death of his wife/band manager in 2008. During this difficult time he did not allow himself to drown in grief and as a tribute, released his debut Blaze Bayley album, The Man Who Would Not Die, in her honor. After various tours and soul-searching, Blaze Bayley has now released Promise and Terror, a vibrant progressive slab of heavy metal that hits the heart.
As an artist, Blaze Bayley has released five studio albums but it wasn’t until his 2008 release (The Man Who Would Not Die) that he actually began to feel comfortable in his skin as an independent artist. The result of becoming an independent artist has been nothing but pure confidence in creativity with his latest release, Promise And Terror. “It’s more work of course but creatively it’s better because you set your own agenda,” says Bayley. “Nobody questions the music that you come up with. Nobody tells you when you can go into the studio. It got very insulting for record labels who have never written a song in their life to criticize my song writing and say that my music isn’t good enough to record. What do they know about it?” he adds. “We choose the artwork, no one outside the band has anything to do with the music and that’s a really good feeling. We don’t need to sell as many records as big bands because we just don’t have the overhead. We’re not paying for someone to sit in an office; we’re not paying other bands. We have the money ourselves and spend it on making the record, going on tour and the people who support us are the fans. What people might experience most times with these bigger labels is that the fans have been treated with contempt. They’re just a pocket and I don’t agree with it. For me the fans are what heavy metal is. We do this because we love this music. It’s different. Perhaps what I’m doing is completely unfashionable and underground but I do it because I have no choice but to do it. This is my life, that’s what I love and its worked for me. I feel that we’re much better off without a big label. It’s a difficult start but I’m hoping that it’ll be worth it. If the fans listen to the album, when they get Promise And Terror, they’ll hopefully see that the quality of the recording is exactly the same as any other big band.”
Promise And Terror screams artistic freedom, a battle of beating the odds of not only life’s unpredictable twist and turns but the strife of the struggling artist. “The songs are individual; it’s an album full of raw emotion,” explains Bayley. “Promise and Terror is in two parts. We didn’t really plan it that way; it just came together when we were working on ideas that we had. These four songs started to fit together. The lyrics and music fit together, so we just felt they belonged together. It’s not really a concept; it’s a story-a more personal journey through love, lost grief, passion and acceptance. That’s the second half of the album. The first part of the album is about subjects that inspire us, people battling against all the odds. From everything to details, we tried to make the idea come to life for the listener. One of the ideas was about Galileo facing the Spanish inquisition and having to recount everything that he said about the earth being round to save his life because otherwise he would get burned alive. To me it proves that one person can be right and everyone else in the world is wrong.” “We also have a song about ‘The siege of Leningrad,’ in second World War. They were surrounded for 900 days by the Nazis and they refused absolutely to surrender. The Nazis never managed to take that city because of the sheer defiance of the inhabitants. They were in the worst of circumstances imaginable. That kind of fighting spirit in humanity, I love and I wanted to do something about that for quite a while.”
“We have a certain way of working and writing. Nobody cares about what’s in the charts or what other bands are doing. We’re just trying to do what we think and follow our own musical ideas; however pigheaded that might be. I think that’s what has given this album the feel that it has. I’m hoping that the people will give it a chance and they will feel that connection. Passion and Terror was made by people that are passionate about this music. We’re trying to say something and make every idea tell a story. I’m hoping that people will see that energy.”
Perhaps what has given Blaze Bayley confidence and edge was his experience working with Heavy Metal legends, Iron Maiden. “I’ve learned so much when I was in Iron Maiden. That’s a long time ago now and this is my fifth studio album. With each album I try to improve. If there was something that I feel didn’t work on the last album, I tried to get it to work on this album. My song writing has definitely improved; my values have changed as a songwriter. What’s important to me is what I want to achieve. I really want something to be great-in its own way and stand on its own. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m always trying to find the next great idea, the next great song and the next great thing that will connect with another person.”
Bayley admits, “I loved being in Iron Maiden at the time; singing those classics and writing material with them. The main thing I learned was confidence. My ideas were accepted and recorded on their albums. I’ve always thought and still think that Iron Maiden is the most important heavy metal band in the world. No one’s done what they’ve done. Years later to now see Iron Maiden and fans cheering along to “Man on the Edge,” singing my lyrics at their concerts-that’s a real big boost to my confidence. To have worked with Steve Harris who is a generous writer, he helped and taught me so much. It was when I wasn’t in Iron Maiden anymore that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my music and I was very-very single minded about it. That was the main thing. Iron Maiden fought their battles early on. No one interferes with their music. No one tells them what to do; they have their own agenda and that’s what they stick to. After being in Iron Maiden, I’ve realized that is the right way to do things. If you have those choices and you can make it possible to do things on your own, then eventually things get better for you creatively.”
Things have gotten brighter for Blaze Bayley. His determination throughout the years to make his dream a reality is finally starting to pay off. “It was a struggle to carry on. I faced many difficulties, tribulations, each being a real struggle at times to continue but I haven’t been on my own. I have a fantastic band and I’ve had a lot of help from different people. When I was in need, fans supported me and kept me going. I think I’ve been very-very lucky with the things that have happened to me. I’ve met the right people, have the right musicians. So I think I have single mindedly tried to pursue the vision of creating what a truly great metal band should be. What I think is-the sound that I love, I think other people would love (whether this sounds arrogant to other people, I don’t know). My music will always continue to tell people that however bleak things may seem in our life, we need to remember that we have choices that we can make. We don’t have to be victims of the dark things that happen in our lives but we do have to survive. And there is a way to survive, even if you don’t see it at the time.”
It took years but Maiden fans are finally starting to come around and appreciate Bayley’s past and current contributions to the metal world. “It’s been more than 10 years since I been in Iron Maiden and it seems now more Iron Maiden fans come to Blaze Bayley shows. A lot of old Maiden fans, when they listen to what I’m doing now they really enjoy it. Just last night one guy came to the show and said, ‘I’ve known you’ve been doing stuff but I haven’t checked it out. This is the first time I’ve seen you and I really wish I would have come to see you earlier because I enjoyed it.’ The fans believe in me and they see that we’re doing something different,” he explains.
The fresh uplifting progressive elements present in Promise And Terror invoke a sense of rebirth. Bayley agrees, “I’m really treating this as a new start for me. I’ve come back from the dead really. A few years ago I didn’t have a proper band; I couldn’t make a record. But now I’ve managed to get a great band together and make an album that I’m so proud of! And I’m just going to keep going and going and play as many gigs as possible. I don’t really care where they are, as long as long as we can afford to get there.”
The future remains optimistic for Blaze Bayley, who is currently touring the world and hopes to return to US soil in the near future. His ultra will of determination makes me certain he will. “I’m really looking forward to hurry back there and see the US fans that supported me for so long. I would like to say a big thank you to all the fans in the USA, who have believed in me and supported me. We are really trying hard to get there and can’t wait. Thank you for all your encouragement, it has been great.”
Live Photos by: Angie Gudino
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Jason thanks for talking with me on such short notice. What did you think of last night’s show in San Antonio?
Jason Myers: Last night was awesome! It was probably one of the best concerts on the tour so far —Huge outdoor stage with a kind of courtyard area. It was packed; great sound and crowd. The band was on fire. It was crazy.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Has it been difficult playing back to back; taking on that double duty as Paul Di’Anno’s backing band?
Jason Myers: Yeah it has- especially for Paul; been a big ruling. Originally we were supposed to take four days on and then a day off but by the time the tour got put together we ended up having eight to nine shows in a roll. Some of this time was spent traveling over thirteen hours between shows. There were some flights involved. It has been pretty chaotic and kind of rough but I wouldn’t trade it for the world, you know? [laughs] I mean we’re having a great time out here but it takes its toll, especially for the singers. You basically get no rest and running off three to four hours of sleep per night. You wake up in the next town; go on stage and half the time nobody even knows what day it is… It’s chaotic—but all in all, I think we’re having a great time with it.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Plus you just released your 3rd album, Draw Down the Moon a few days ago—while on the road, correct?
Jason Myers: Yeah this past Tuesday.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Has this process worked in the bands favor?
Jason Myers: The timing on it was kind of strange. It came out right in the middle of our tour. The press, feedback, interviews has all been done through emails and text messages. That’s how everything has been working out. Every night has been sort of like a cd release party for us. We’re promoting it as much as possible and taking it to the people by promoting it in person. There really hasn’t been enough time for us to catch our breath. It’s different than any other release that we have done in that regards. I guess in a way its good timing because we’re selling people the cd the same night they see us perform. They’ve been checking us out, coming to the merch booth to buy a cd and then coming back at the end of the night to meet us. You can’t ask for more direct feedback than that.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Exactly and what a perfect combination, touring with Paul Di’Anno…
Jason Myers: Absolutely. I mean it’s ideal because our style of music. When the band first started about five years ago, our intention was to sort of create, produce classic metal and classic hard rock music that was in the vein of 70’s-early 80’s bands that we grew up with. What better way to take that message out with bands of that genre, touring and supporting the forefathers. It has really been a great combination.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Aside from managing to capture the best of traditional heavy metal, the band successfully incorporates a unique sound and image.
Jason Myers: I think so as well. The foundation of the music is based in the traditional sense but as a younger band, we’re bringing our energy to it. I think we finally found ourselves with this album. This is our third full length release and we sort of established our own identity around more so than the past. I think this is our strongest effort yet.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: You’ve grown as a song writer and feel comfortable in your skin.
Jason Myers: Yeah absolutely. When our first album came out, we had not even played a show together. The whole band came together really fast and our cd release party for that first album was actually the first time that we performed live as a band. In the time since then- we’ve played so many shows that we have an idea of what kind of song structure is going to go over live. Now we’re in the position where we can create music with a better sense of how to come across to a live audience.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: This past November, Steve Johnson entered the Witch fold. As Icarus Witch’s new drummer, what has the experience been like for him and what has he brought new to the table?
Jason Myers: Steve was basically thrown to the wolves with a trial by fire. The first time he played live with this band was the first day of this tour. He’s been doing really well and learning as he goes along. He’s probably the best drummer that fits; I mean we’ve been through more drummer’s than Spinal Tap. But this guy- he didn’t have to change styles to accommodate our needs. In the past we had drummers that were in a thrash or progressive element. When we found Steve, he was all about the classic metal and rock style to begin with; it was a very easy fit. The daunting task of learning the Icarus Witch set and Paul Di’Anno set in a matter of weeks, leaving his wife behind to join the circus with us —I’d say he’s doing pretty good.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: That’s great. As for the new album, what does Draw Down the Moon deal with? I know there is the obvious reference to the occult and dark subject matter but in your eyes what does this this album signify?
Jason Myers: Well the title itself is in reference to a pagan ceremony- invoking a higher power of the goddess or the pagan gods to enhance your life and ceremonies. I thought it was kind of fitting. For this project we were just applying that concept of searching. It’s really hard to describe. Basically invoking a higher power- whether it is the gods of rock [laughs] or whatever you believe in. It was like taking this thing to the next level, searching for a higher source of power to invoke our music. That might sound kind of strange but lyrically we’ve always dealt with darker and occult subject matter. It has sort of run parallel to the music. This time around and like everything else, we took it to the next level and were a little more direct with the lyrics.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Your albums also invoke that essence present in some of the great classic dark literature works of Edgar Allan Poe for example.
Jason Myers: Yeah, that is something we have always been inspired by. Everything from Edgar Allan Poe to…
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Lovecraft
Jason Myers: Yeah, H.P. Lovecraft, Aleister Crowley and LeVey. The things we feel inspired by we try to incorporate that while we’re on stage. I don’t know but it always gives us a better sense of energy that we can tap into when performing.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: This time around you guys covered The Ripper; amazing Judas Priest song. That’s awesome.
Jason Myers: Thanks that is a song that we actually produced for a Judas Priest tribute album for our record label. It was something that we really felt needed to get out there more. The tribute album was good and successful in its own right but we felt a lot more people needed to hear that version. We felt our version came out very strong and it fit in with the style and energy of the album as a whole; so we decided to close the record with that. That particular song has been receiving some great feedback from those who have heard it.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How do you feel about Icarus Witch’s place in metal? I mean—a younger act and holding up that torch; resurrecting heavy metal in the underground. Do you see yourself still holding that torch when bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are gone- for the younger generation?
Jason Myers: Yes, absolutely. It was the natural way for us to write. When this group of musicians comes together, that’s our common denominator. We all have varied styles of music that we like but the common source of music that everybody likes is that early style of hard rock and heavy metal. We would have been playing this style of music regardless whether it was popular or not. When we first came on the scene five years ago, it was the most unfashionable style of music that you could prove yourself with- especially in America. We weren’t doing it for success or anything like that in mind. It was just the style of music that we liked and wanted to play. Fortunately since then, there has been a turning point in the tastes on the American metal undergrounds and it’s kind of ironic that by avoiding the trends, the trends have sort of come around to our favor. It’s been the bands motto since the beginning: Bow to Now Trends! Again, when we first started there was nothing but nu metal, screamo, and all this stuff. People kept telling us, if you want to be successful you have to incorporate this element or be more of something that we were not.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: The odds were against you.
Jason Myers: Definitely. We are now starting to see the youth of the underground with more interest in the traditional styles of metal. When we pull into town at an all-ages show, we see kids that are fifteen through eighteen years old with the Iron Maiden and Priest shirts. For them, they’re discovering this genre for the first time. If we could be to them what Queensryche or Fates Warning was to us when we were that age- it’s an honor and we take it very seriously. We have stuck to our guns and hopefully we will be here to continue to help develop the scene and this genre will continue to grow. We’re going to keep doing what we do!
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What are your plans after the Beast and Witches Tour?
Jason Myers: Well, we plan to shoot a video for the new album. That’s something we wanted to do before we left but there was just not enough time to get into the studio to do that. There’s already talk of other tours coming up in the near future. We love living out on the road and we want to stay out here. It’s always possible, regardless of whom we’re playing with. We’re working with some new managers and promoters to try to keep out on the road as long as possible. And we’d also like to start writing stuff and demo it for the next album; so there won’t be so much of a gap between releases. When Songs for the Lost came out it was 2007 and through the various member changes it took us awhile and we don’t want that to happen again. We prefer to put out an album within a year, tour and then back in the studio. So we’re going to keep writing. It’s sort of hard to write when on the road, especially now- we have not had time for anything. But when we get back we’re going to try to work on a new album and be back on the road in time for summer.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Awesome. Keeping busy is always best; last words are yours…
Listen to the music- If you like what you hear, pick up the new album. I think there’s a little something in our music for everybody.
Listen to the track, Black Candles from Icarus Witch’s latest album- Draw Down the Moon
Toby Knapp has had a long and storied career in heavy metal music. He signed with Shrapnel Records at the age of twenty, where he released his first instrumental solo CD Guitar Distortion. From there Toby formed the classic heavy metal band Onward, and was signed to the Century Media label. With Onward, Toby released two CDs which were critically acclaimed. After Onward disbanded Toby went into the Black Metal genre, releasing a CD under the name of Waxen, and began his solo career once again. Two virtuoso type guitar releases followed, before Toby joined Darkane to be their touring guitarist in 2009. As 2010 approaches, Toby is ready to unleash The Campaign. However this time, Toby is not content with making another shredfest type CD. So he enlisted the help of four vocalists from different genres in the heavy metal realm. Attila Csihar (of Mayhem), Dean Sternberg (ex-Into Eternity), Tom Cline (Noise Auction), and Jeff Gruslin (ex-Vital Remains). The result of this ambitious project, is a heavy metal masterpiece that has received acclaim from fans around the world who have heard samples of this CD.
“I’m really bored with the bands I once respected, its like shut the fuck up already, we know you are real heavy, dark and miserable, take some zoloft and go away”.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Congrats on your new CD “The Campaign” coming out in Jan 2010! How long did it take to write this CD?
Toby Knapp: Thanks! It took about 3 months or so, some of the material was written long ago and I did some touch ups and re-recorded it. “Telekinesis” was written in 1991 for instance and was on the demo that helped get me signed to Shrapnel Records.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How did the artwork come together for the cover of “The Campaign”?
Toby Knapp: Jumali did the artwork for the previous album “Misanthropy Divine” on German label “Rock It Up” and I liked his work so much I had Mike at Shredguy get in touch with him and the “Campaign” cover is killer! Mean as fuck.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: When you write songs, do you start with a concept, or a riff or anything else?
Toby Knapp: Anything can bring on the inspiration, a melody can wake you from sleep and you run to the guitar and try to capture it. There is no way of knowing how it will evolve, sometimes effortlessly like the song is writing itself and you are just the channel trying to keep up. If it is forced, it usually gets trashed.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I was hearing the song “Transvection” while conducting this interview along with many other of your works. I got to say that is one hell of a moving song. How did the main riff come about for this?
Toby Knapp: “Transvection” was recorded around 2005 and is taken from the all instrumental album “Polarizing Lines”. It is a middle finger to my old hometown, Sheridan, Wyoming’s music scene. We have so many fucking blues players that I wanted something that takes the pentatonic scale to a higher level. It purposely starts weak to mimic local guitarists then explodes into odd-meter nuclear blues…….a good piece of music and done very much in spite. I’m a smartass.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: From everything you have done which album would you say best describes Toby Knapp?
Toby Knapp: It’s so hard to say because I like all genres of True Metal and have recorded Power Metal, Shred, Thrash, Prog, Black Metal, Death Metal, etc. “The Campaign” combines all of these genres, so I’d have to say this newest album.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: If you could be in any musical movement in history, what would it be?
Toby Knapp: I wish I was around in the mid-sixties and had my career throughout the seventies. That’s when there was still unchartered territory in rock music. Now it’s all been done to death and image seems more important than music, like how big your beard is. However, I believe my new solo album is unique.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: In what way have your tastes changed across the years of making music?
Toby Knapp: Not much, when I was a kid it was Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as a teen Slayer, Mercyful Fate and Yngwie, into my twenties Morbid Angel and soon Mayhem and obscure Black Metal bands. The bottom line, it has to be sinister with strong musicianship that taste has never changed.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Who is one thrash guitarist that you like?
Toby Knapp: I think Gary Holt from Exodus is really the king of Thrash guitar, he’s got it all. He’s a pioneer and a genius.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What do you think is next for black metal? Do you think it will form into another genre or should it ever reclaim its original form?
Toby Knapp: Many of the great pioneers, such as Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Graveland, etc. will continue to keep the true spirit alive. Unfortunately others will pollute it, like how all these Swedish bands merge Dimmu Borgir and Linkin Park…….Darkane comes to mind.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How do you describe the music of your solo work? Do you place it to any sub genres such as thrash, progressive, crossover, metalcore?
Toby Knapp: I just call it Progressive Metal. Metalcore should be avoided at all costs.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Do you have any higher powers that exist for you?
Toby Knapp: Spiritually? I read tons, everything from Deepak Choprah to Aleister Crowley. I believe in finding that correct path, once you find it and follow it, anything is possible and life becomes very interesting, you begin interacting with the Universe. The old saying “what comes around goes around” means alot to me. An avid student of Crowley’s Thelemic philosophy told me to not concern myself with Black Magick, the Universe handles payback, and I’ve found this to be true.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Do you think that the effect has been taken away from old school zines you could receive in the mail, now that we can have “webzines” like on myspace?
Toby Knapp: Both have advantages and disadvantages. I was a part of the underground tape-trading, letter writing scene…..and I certainly miss that. I hate logging into Myspace and there’s a god damn rap fucker on the page. Webzines are great and very helpful. Myspace bands are funny, the ones with music profiles and nothing on the player; yet they’ll boast being the “most awesome Shred Metal band”…….or this fucking band of old fuckers in Wyoming who were claiming they were the next big thing and made more money than major label bands…..they have a myspace page with one song with zero plays. It used to piss me off but now it’s pretty sad…….and funny.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Tell us about your tape trading days?
Toby Knapp: Wild Rags Records and Pat Ranieri of Hellwitch introduced me to that world and it was the most exciting thing, I remember getting an advance tape of Sarcastic’s (Mexico) album and how great it was. I worshipped bands like Hellwitch, Nuclear Death, Impetigo, Blasphemy, Toxodeth, Crucifer and so many others, and I still do.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Did you ever know or meet the late Chuck Schuldiner? If so what are your memories of him.
Toby Knapp: My debut album on Shrapnel Records “Guitar Distortion” came out at the same time as Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns” and I knew Andy Laroque was a guest on that album (I wanted that gig very badly) so I wrote a letter to Chuck with a cd, he wrote me a small thank you note back and it’s laminated in my “Thought Patterns” album. I never knew him, but I knew he was the real deal and his music will influence generations……it already has.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How did you spread the word of your band/s and music before there was a myspace?
Toby Knapp: I’ve usually had some sort of label backing so I’ve never really had to promote myself, I hate doing that. Myspace is a good thing to gather and keep in touch with your fanbase, keep them up to date on current events. Most unsigned Myspace bands are unsigned for a reason, and some just blatantly lie and say they are signed.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: If you could induct a band into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame…who would it be?
Toby Knapp: Mayhem.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Is there anything in the metal scene now-a-days that you would like to see change?
Toby Knapp: Metalcore bands calling themselves thrash is really annoying. I’m tired of all the bands that look and sound the same…..I’m really bored with the bands I once respected, its like “shut the fuck up already, we know you are real heavy, dark and miserable, take some zoloft and go away”.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Who are you currently endorsed by?
Toby Knapp: I’ve never pursued endorsements; I do have one with S.I.T. Strings and some others from the 90′s. It would be nice to get something good as far as endorsements in the coming year. Fender and Marshall owe me!
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What can u tell us about your current label?
Toby Knapp: Shredguy Records is a few years old and owned by guitar maniac Mike Mcdowell. This is the best label I’ve worked with, absolutely no bullshit and 100% artistic freedom. Mike put more thought into the packaging of “The Campaign” and promotion than any label I’ve been with, and I’ve been on some big labels. Great label.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What would you say is the most intense show you have ever played?
Toby Knapp: Probably the last official gig with my band Onward at the Key Club in L.A. opening for Blind Guardian, the venue was sold out, people were going nuts for us and I was crashing from a week long drug/alcohol binge. That was intense……we played really good but I felt so horrible and learned a lesson on that one.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Where can fans purchase your merch at?
Toby Knapp: The respective labels…..Shredguy, Shrapnel, Century Media, Metalbolic…..it’s all over, Amazon have a little “Toby Knapp” store.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: So, do you think you would ever find yourself doing a concept album if you have not already? Are there any concept albums you like?
Toby Knapp: I love concept albums, the stuff Rush, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Queensryche, King Diamond, Symphony x and Yes have done. I think all the Onward albums are concept albums to an extent, but not intentionally, there seemed to be a steady lyrical and musical theme that brought them all together as a statement.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What has been one of the best venues you have played at as far as space, atmosphere, management etc.
Toby Knapp: I played some venues in Canada with Darkane and Soilwork and you would think that would have been impressive, no, they were managed by someone’s fucking girlfriend. The Yoko Ono Syndrome is alive and well.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Looking back at your albums, do you have a favorite song that you feel is your best work yet?
Toby Knapp: From the Waxen album “Fumaroth”; “Splendid Impure Light” in terms of really injecting music with negativity. I also like much of the solo album “Polarizing Lines”.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Which song do you like to play live that really gets the crowd going?
Toby Knapp: With Onward the song “Onward” really got a good response, later on I think the song “Polarizing Lines” with my solo band seemed to wake folks up.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Are there any songs you look back on that you don’t like as much now as when you first wrote them?
Toby Knapp: I hate some of the things on “Guitar Distortion”, not songs but certain segments. I think everyone hates “Absolution Mine” from Onward’s “Evermoving”. All musicians have to be honest with themselves. Sometimes I can’t listen to Onward’s “Reawaken” without cringing and turning it off………if I’m in a different mood I think it’s a masterpiece. I do like almost all post Onward stuff though.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How has your audience changed from when you first started your career?
Toby Knapp: I get older, they get younger.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Before a show, is there anything you do to prepare yourself mentally or physically?
Toby Knapp: A cigarette and some beers or a very strong drink, by the time the first song is over I’ve sweated out the liquor and am not nervous anymore. I like to either be alone for awhile, other times I like to be very jovial and joking with friends while warming up, it all depends on the situation. I’ve learned the importance of having water onstage as opposed to beer.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What advice would you give to a band that is just starting off?
Toby Knapp: Stop now. Go to a trade school.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What gear do you use while on stage or in the studio?
Toby Knapp: All Marshall stuff, various combinations depending on venue, I record with various Marshalls as well and I use Fender Stratocasters that are for the most part completely stock.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How do you feel about music downloading and file sharing? Do you think it takes away from bands less known to make a living off of their music?
Toby Knapp: I don’t know how to feel, I have seen all my stuff available for illegal download. In one aspect it’s ok, it spreads your music and maybe you’ll have better attendance at shows, therefore resulting in a little money for the artist after all. It’s hard to make a living off music unless you play in a cover band, seriously, the weekend warriors are the ones making more money playing top 40 bullshit.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What news do you have for the Godless Rising tour?
Toby Knapp: Unfortunately, nothing. We had a large January/Feb. set of dates and the clubs kept changing their tune as far as what they would guarantee us and we couldn’t risk fucking with crooked promoters who fuck touring metal bands over. Another example of how this business is fucked. Now we just await the album’s release and we will see what happens after that.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Do you think you will ever put out a box set or any special set in the future?
Toby Knapp: I would love to have something out on Vinyl someday, that’s why I got into the business, I wanted to be on a big god damn vinyl lp. I got my first record contract as vinyl was being phased out.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Any last words..
Toby Knapp: Thank you very much for taking the time to compile these questions for me, they were great! Hello to all your readers and pick up my solo album “The Campaign” on Shredguy Records and Godless Rising’s “Trumpet of Triumph” on Moribund Records!
San Antonio was once called “The Heavy Metal Capital of the World.” Not sure if the good ol’ city of San Antone still lives up to its name but I’d like to think so. After all, we’re still a loud- flamboyant and cultural city; who loves to party hard and when it comes to rock and heavy metal we sure can pack the house.
There’s always something magical in the air when the metal gods, Judas Priest roll into town. A unique and vibrant surge of energy seems to flow through each and every fan in attendance. Maybe it’s the beer but just like you caffeine addicts who need your cup of coffee to make it through the morning; we need our dose of metal. So- you can imagine what a show like Judas Priest and Whitesnake would entail…thousands of drunk and merry metal heads making conversation, singing along to their favorite JP tunes and the show was yet to begin.
My day started out sort of frantic, an odd feeling of nervousness consumed me. The fact that I was going to be a mere few steps away from the Metal Gods as they rocked San Antonio sent chills down my spine. I’ve seen Judas Priest many times before and this was to be the 2nd time I shoot live photography for the band but the thought that they were going to perform British Steel in its entirety was exciting!
Alternative rockers, Pop Evil opened up the show. Did not get to check this band out but the overload of fans mingling outside and in the hallway was proof that I was not missing much. None the less, these fuckers are touring with Judas Priest and Whitesnake, so they must have something decent to offer someone.
Whitesnake took the throne next and I was extremely surprised that vocalist David Coverdale sounded great after all these years. The years must have been kind to him because his voice and energy was like a breath of fresh air, while the band dished out hits like Slow N Easy, Is this Love, Here I Go Again and even the cheesy ballad, Crying in the Rain to name a few. With substance and obvious confidence, guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach worked the stage like a winning pair. Just goes to show, that although Whitesnake flirts with the pretty side of hard rock and metal, the snake still bites hard.
Love Ain’t No Stranger
Slow and Easy
Lay Down Your Love (both guitar solos)
Crying In The Rain (drum solo)
Is This Love
Give Me All Your Love
Here I Go Again
Still Of The Night
Closing the show, Judas Priest never ceases to amaze me and on this occasion Halford hit the notes with passion. Don’t get me wrong, passion, enthusiasm are two qualities always present when Rob Halford performs but he was definitely giving it 100+ percent on this night. Last year’s Metal Masters tour was huge on visuals and technicality. This time around, there was less eye candy which made it possible to witness the gang pour out their energy.
With the gang performing British Steel in its entirety, we heard gems such as Rapid Fire, You Don’t have to be Old to Be Wise, The Rage and Steeler- all tracks that you probably never witnessed in a live setting unless you were lucky to catch the Priest back in the golden years. Also performed was the haunting Victim of Changes, a track that never fails to send me goose bumps. The crowd went insane and wanted more!
The night was capped off with a great encore; Freewheel Burning, Diamonds and Rust [JP’s cover of the great Joan Baez folk song] and You’ve Got Another Thing Comin ended the night. The drunks stumbled out merrily, and I must say, it always puts a smile on my face to witness Priest on stage- full of energy and having fun! The way metal should be. Judas Priest is still going strong, ‘Delivering the goods’ for many years to come.
Breaking The Law
You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise
Living After Midnight
Victim of Changes
Diamonds and Rust
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin