I am sure that all epic metal fans know Paladine, the band from Greece, which delivers anthemic epic metal and is influenced by the Dragonlance saga novels! Well, the Greek epic heavy/power metallers have just released their sophomore album, “Entering the Abyss”, and are ready to conquer the world with their fine blend of European and American power metal. Myth of Rock, enchanted by the new songs of Paladine, came in contact and spoke with Paladine mastermind/bassist, Christ Stergianidis, who answered humbly and patiently our long list of questions. Come on, let’s enter the abyss ! …

by Michalis Kapetanakis


You are now releasing your new album, “Entering the Abyss”, four years after your debut album, “Finding Solace”. How did this debut album go commercially? Whats your opinion for this album now?

It did quite well, I believe, in spite of being a debut album, with several problems in its production, coming from a new band that came out of nowhere. People embraced it, mainly because it is an honest album, true in any case. What do I think of it today? Of course, I would change a lot of things, but this makes sense, since whatever you listen to after a long period of time, with all the experience you gain through the years, you definitely want to change various things in it. It is very likely that after four other years, I will want to change some things in “Entering the Abyss”. This has to do with evolution and how you perceive some things over time. 

 

What should the heavy/power metal fan expect from “Entering the Abyss”? Would you say that this new album is the natural continuation of “Finding Solace”? How important is this album for Paladine?

What is on “Entering the Abyss” and what every fan should expect from it is an epic style, epic melodies with very anthemic refrains. An album based on a very beautiful story, which unfolds slowly before him, while listening to the songs. A strong and much more sophisticated than previously rhythm section, stormy solos and very passionate, punchy vocals. In a nutshell, a very carefully carved and to the point album. To be frank, I wouldn’t call it a natural continuation, but a natural progress. I believe that “Entering the Abyss”, if you exclude the subject of the lyrics, has nothing to do with “Finding Solace”. The second album is the most important for a band, I think, because at this point, you have found your identity. Always the first album moves in more experimental phases and surely the band is still looking for what paths its existence will follow. The second album is much clearer on that.

 

In the new album, Nikos Protonotarios sings only. Why did he leave the guitar?

Apart from the fact that two excellent guitarists joined the band, Sotiris Paraskevas and John Kats, I think it was better for Nikos himself to dedicate much more to the voice than to have also the weight of the guitars, which happened on the first album. This decision was made long before the production of the second album. From the live show with Q5. Certainly in the live concerts now, Nikos, handling only the vocals, will be able to give all his potential to singing and performing on stage. 

 

Paladine has three new members, two guitarists (Sotiris Paraskevas, John Kats) and a drummer (Babis Tsolakis). How were these new members selected for the Paladine line-up? Is there the desired chemistry in the band’s new line-up?

Sotiris came first in the band. Two years after the release of “Finding Solace”, if I remember correctly. He immediately matched with the band, as he is a great player, but above all, a very good guy, quite low-profiled, with a lot of appetite, always developing due to the unstoppable practice. A diamond for our scene. Later, during the production of the album, John Kats came and a little later, Babis Tsolakis. I don’t hide the fact that I had a discussion with John a few years ago to come to the band, but the right time was now. A very good guy, with an appetite for creation and an excellent player. He came and matched with the band immediately, I believe. Then, Babis, the brother! Whatever you may say about this guy, is little. Well-known drummer with his very successful band Fragile Vastness. So many years in the field and in the scene. A gentle giant. An awesome transfer, I'm really glad that I got to know him much better through the band.

 

The current line-up of the band doesn’t include a keyboard player. Who did play the keyboards on the new album? Why isn’t Marilena Plitsi, who played the keyboards on “Finding Solace”, anymore in Paladine?

All keyboards on the new disc are midi. We are very happy that we had Marilena in the band, a very talented pianist, but for personal reasons she did not want to continue with the band and of course we wish her the best. We did not want to look for a new keyboardist in Paladine, because the band would later consist of six people, which doesn’t make it very flexible.

 

When and where did the recordings of ‘’Entering the Abyss” take place”? Why did you choose again Thimios Krikos as the producer? Which are Thimios Krikoscharacteristics as a producer?

The recordings began in the beginning of 2020, after the preproduction was complete, something very important for the production itself. Thus, we began with the guitars, which were recorded at Thimios Krikos’ home studio, and the drums, the bass and the keyboards followed. Some acoustic instruments were recorded at the DevaSoundz Studio. Vocals were recorded by Nikos Protonotarios at his home studio in England and we left the solos for the end.

Our co-operation with Thimios on the first album was very pleasant and very friendly. Having developed a very nice relationship with him, I decided to work again with him on the second album. He is a person, who honors the work of every band and tries for the best result. Let me also mention the great help of Nikos Iosifidis in the whole production.

Thymios as a producer is very meticulous. In a good way. He can take out of every player, who is recording, the 100% of his potential. He sweats the shirt, as we say in slang, and he is in general very pleasant as a person.

 

This second album was mastered by Giorgos Nerantzis. How much important was Giorgos’ role in the final result?

His role was huge. I believe that the mastering was the strong point of the production, by an acclaimed professional. In fact, two masterings were done, because we didn’t get exactly what we wanted with the first mastering. The persistence of the band in the specific style that we wanted and the professionalism of Giorgos brought the desired result.

 

Who were the song composers and who wrote the lyrics of the new songs? How is a Paladine song usually made?

The main song composer in the new album was Nikos Protonotarios, who wrote seven out of the eleven songs of the album, and all the vocal lines. Then, Sotiris Paraskevas, who wrote the other three tracks and all the solos except one, written by John. Personally, I set up the whole concept and wrote the lyrics together with the introductory part, in which Thomas Sykes gave his voice.

Usually we make our songs according to the concept. Every composer who is going to write a song, has in mind the style he needs to render the story of the album, and he starts. The song is worked on until the end, very draft, and in the pre-production we bring it to an 85% of the final result. In other words, the song is built from its early, draft shape gradually towards completion. It’s a nice thing, especially when writing the vocal lines. When we have the song without the voices, for example, Nikos starts and sings on it with draft lyrics, in order to give the style but also the melodies and lines he wants to bring it where he wants, in his own, personal style. Then we write the lyrics based on what he has sung. I can say that this is quite fun.

 

What is the source of inspiration for the composition of Paladine music?

I cannot say exactly that we are inspired by this or that band, since it is obvious that there is no copy from another band’s song. We mostly draw inspiration from the decade of the 80s, but also from the power metal scene in general all these years. On the second album there is definitely a more modern touch and the band finds its identity. I believe that the inspiration of the band is the music itself and the very good musicianship that exists.

 

As far as the lyrics are concerned, you are influenced again by the Dragonlance saga. Would you say that your lyrics hide allegories and symbolisms?

And the second album is inspired by the bestselling novels of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, telling the fantasy world of Dragonlance. Do the lyrics have allegorical symbolisms? Yes they do. The basic meaning of the story is a man, who may be selfish and arrogant, he may want to conquer everything and do everything to achieve that, however, there is always something inside or outside him that will push him to find his good side and in the end, all the suffering he did can be forgiven.

 

Your music is in an epic heavy/power metal style. How do you see things nowadays in the global heavy/power metal scene? What’s your opinion for the Greek heavy/power metal scene?

From 2010 onwards, and I say this as a heavy metal fan from the late 80s - early 90s, heavy metal is flourishing again. Big names made very good records, while they were on ice all the past decade. It is like reviving, no matter how heretical I may sound, hahaha, if not the 80s, the 90s for sure. This is a very encouraging thing.

As far as the Greek scene is concerned, I can say only one thing - huge! Yes, the Greek power (and not only) metal scene has become a protagonist and is getting stronger over time, from old and many new bands. Awesome compositions, amazing productions, world-renowned musicians, what can I say ... whatever I may say, is little. A big WELL DONE, I hope it continues even stronger.

 

I believe that musically you have found the perfect balance between European and American heavy/power metal sound. Do you agree with me?

I'm really glad you believe that. People consider us more like a euro-power band, but I also believe that we have a lot of elements from the American scene. We certainly are not considered to be playing US metal but there is a tendency towards it, mainly due to the strength of the songs and the style. We dοn’ t use too many keyboards and choruses, two key elements of the European sound, and I would say that we are a European band with American touches! At least until the next record, hehehe!

 

Many accuse epic metal of being outdated. What would you answer to them?

I would say that YES, it is. They are right, but what’s the wrong with that? I believe that the inspiration that comes from anywhere is not a reason to be silenced. Too many bands around the world, that are not epic metal, are outdated. Too many, I don’t need to say names and examples. So I think being outdated is not a bad thing, if it doesn’t reach the limits of ridiculous. Do you become outdated, if you talk about dragons and magicians, having much deeper meanings in the lyrics? Ok …

 

The first album had an undisputed hit, the eponymous song ("Paladine"). Do you think the new album has such a hit? In my opinion, it has, "Mighty Heart"!

I really like the question. I will say that you are right about “Paladine”. I think it is the hit of “Finding Solace” and personally my favorite track of the album, which I loved from the very first time. So, in the second album I tried very hard at the end to find my favorite track, definitely “Mighty Heart” is a hit of the album, but not my favorite. A personal favorite is the title track, “Entering the Abyss”.

 

The cover artwork of "Entering the Abyss" was made again by Jimmy Ling. How did you decide to work with him again?

Jim is a very good friend of mine and an acclaimed painter and professional. His first work for us was very successful and we thought it would be a great idea to co-operate again. The way he works is amazing and I didn't really think of anyone else to do the cover of “Entering the Abyss”. I am absolutely happy with the result.

 

As part of the promotion of your debut album, you opened for Manilla Road and Q5. How do you remember these live shows now?

It was a unique experience. Our first live show with Manilla Road in Kyttaro club? Which band would not be happy! Second live show with Q5? We think of them and we feel amazing, we see the future with such live shows ahead. Apart from the huge experience, we also met many good people from these bands, with whom we have kept in contact so far. The participation of the people, our whole performance and the vibe in these live shows will never be forgotten.

 

Your second album is coming out via No Remorse Records again. How did you decide to work with No Remorse Records again?

To be frank, we didn’t plan to co-operate again with No Remorse Records. After the release of “Finding Solace”, we dissolved our cooperation very smoothly and amicably, and we were left without a record label. We looked at several companies, foreign and Greek, for the release of our second album. Fate finally brought us to meet again Christos from No Remorse Records and finally to agree on the release of the second album.

 

Which is the relationship of the members of Paladine? Simple bandmates or even friends?

Bandmates and partners in the beginning, very good friends and brothers in the end. That's how it goes. Fellowship with something in common, binds people. Especially when there is chemistry between them, cooperation ceases to be cooperation and a friendly relationship comes. Thanks to all the guys who took part in this journey, each one in his own way.

 

How much did the quarantine due to the coronavirus affect you? As members of Paladine and as humans? Is the fact that the new album is released amid a lockdown good or bad?

I can say, no matter how bad it sounds, that the quarantine helped to make the new record faster. That's because all the individuals, who took part in it, were quarantined and had a lot of free time to work on the record… except me, hahaha! As people, surely this whole situation was very bad. Not going out of your house is very ugly and having an invisible insidious enemy out there is scary. All the guys were inside and everything was done from a distance.

The worst thing about releasing the new album now is the lack of live shows. Unfortunately, the record cannot be promoted this way. Of course, as people sat at home, many hours on their computer and with a lot of free time, the promotion through social networks bore fruit. This is a consolation and not what we wanted. To conclude, I do not think the fact that the disc came out in quarantine is bad. We hope that next year the live performances will start and at this time people will learn the songs better so that they are ready for what will follow.

 

How do you plan to promote “Entering the Abyss”?

We promote the album through magazines and radio. We have a promoter who does a very good job mainly abroad. We promote the album on social networks and internet sites. We have put the record on all electronic platforms and we also have No Remorse Records which also does promotion work as it knows best. There are no live shows as we all know, but I believe that good work has been done and is being done in the field of promotion.

 

Your message to those who read this interview!

Be all well and safe, first of all. Our health is everything. When all is well, support as much as you can our bands and our Greek scene, because these years have been very difficult, especially in terms of the bands’ finances. Do not forget that every record is, apart from a lot of time and thought for every band, a big financial burden. Thank you for 'listening' to me so far and keep the flame always burning!

Helstar, one of the greatest US power/speed metal bands in history, has just released a double CD, “Clad in Black”, which includes some cover songs, some new songs and the “Vampiro” album in its entirety. As this historic band comes in the spotlight again, Myth of Rock had the opportunity to talk with Helstar’s frontman, the one and only James Rivera! It is always a pleasure and an honor to have a conversation with James Rivera, a true legend of metal, an incredible voice, a huge, well-respected metal personality! Below you can read all the interesting things that James Rivera told us, but beware ... James Rivera and his bandmates are ready to go for your throats!

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos


Hello James! In October 2020 Helstar released a 7” single, the amazing “Black Wings of Solitude”. Why did you decide to release a single back then?

We wanted to do something a little different, you know, something we never did before. We had never released a single before. And it was such a strong single that we decided it needed to get as much attention as possible. That was part of the reason. We also wanted to try something different on how we would release this new song. Instead of releasing everything at one time, we wanted to release things a little differently, so that way we could, hmmm … spread it out, I guess that’s the word.

 

You are releasing now a new double CD, “Clad in Black”. Which are your feelings for this release?

Well, we think it is a good thing ... Lot of people are loving it. We also felt that a lot of people didn’t know about “Vampiro”, such a traditional, classic Helstar record. We didn’t want the people who missed it, to not know about it.  Because there are many people we talked with and they didn’t know that we had this album out. That’s the reason why we put it in “Clad in Black” as an extra, free record.

 

And why did you name this new release “Clad in Black”?

Basically it comes from the Bram Stoker novel “Dracula”. I have always liked that term, “clad in black”, which means “dressed in black” … when Jonathan Harker, one of the protagonists of the novel, described the first time he met Count Dracula, when he visited his castle in Transylvania, his exact words were, “... I opened the door and I saw a very strange looking man, standing there, all clad in black ...”. I had never heard that expression before, it stuck with me for a long time, I have always been thinking it was a cool expression, that’s why we decided to give that name to the new release.

 

In “Clad in Black” we can also find two new covers, to Accept (“Restless and Wild”) and Judas Priest (“Sinner”). Why did you decide to cover these certain songs instead of others?

We already do these covers in the Sabbath Judas Sabbath metal extravaganza, the tribute band that I have. In this tribute band you will find the entire line-up of Helstar. That’s why we chose that songs.

 

In “Clad in Black” two new Helstar songs are included, “Dark Incarnation (Mother of the Night)” and “Across the Raging Seas”. Who wrote the music and the lyrics of these two new Helstar songs?

The composers of “Dark Incarnation (Mother of the Night)” are Larry Barragan (guitars) and Andrew Atwood (guitars), and its lyrics were written by me and Larry. In “Across the Raging Seas” the composers were Larry and Andrew again – Larry wrote the lyrics for that too.

 

At which studios did you record these two new songs?

They were all record at Larry’s house. We have our own studios there, the Hombre Malo Studios in Houston, Texas. These songs were mixed and mastered in Germany, mixed by Martin Pfeiffer, who has worked with U.D.O., Accept, etc. and of course, mastered by Stefan Kaufmann of Accept, haha!

 

How do you feel that Stefan Kaufmann did the mastering for you?

Great! Amazing, he gave us a huge sound, a big sound. Basically, working with these guys gave Helstar the sound that we always deserved, after all these years.

 

Let’s go now to vampires! Your song lyrics refer to vampires, you have a vampire-inspired image both on stage and on your official photos. Why is that?

I was always a fan of vampires, since I was a young kid. Vampires are fascinating creatures, which have really existed, but we don’t know about that. I can’t tell for sure, because I have been reading some other stories about people who believed that there were true vampires, some unique stories that make you wonder and say. “That is strange!”, haha! I have always been fascinated more with the Hammer Films Dracula and vampire movies. Christopher Lee was the best Dracula ever.

 

Which is your favorite Dracula movie with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing?

Oh, dude, “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave”, it has to be the ultimate Dracula movie!

 

I also like that movie very much!

Yes, haha, that’s the one where Dracula falls on the cross, haha!

 

You referred before to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Do you read horror literature in general?

Yes, I do, I have read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” a hundred times, starting from the days we were writing the “Nosferatu” album (1989)!

 

James, Helstar started its career in the early eighties. How different were things for heavy metal back then?

The metal thing was a huge thing, back in the early eighties. On the contrary, metal isn’t doing too bad today, hmm …

 

What’s your opinion about internet? Do you like it?

Yes and no. It just depends … what I don’t like nowadays is that you go to a live show and everybody has a mobile phone on his hand, and then they start posting videos and stuff. You can’t have a bad show, great, all the world will see that now, hahaha!

 

Which is your favorite Helstar album?

Oh, man, that’s too hard to answer, haha! Actually I can say that our latest full-length album, “Vampiro”, is our best album. Really.

 

What keeps Helstar alive until this day?

The passion for music. It is a way of living, for me. We know that we will never get rich, doing Helstar, that’s for sure, but it is our inner passion, our love we have for music. We want to continue to release good music, we are having our fans all over the world, who appreciate what we are doing, so it is always worth it, if you look it that way.

 

James, you keep your voice at a great shape. How do you manage that?

Oh, I don’t know, man, a lot of sleep, good Jägermeister and good wine, haha!

 

I would like to ask you about some other bands, in which you have participated, for example Destiny’s End, Distant Thunder, Seven Witches etc. Do you still like the albums that you have released with these bands?

Oh, yeah, of course! In a matter of fact, I am doing a new Seven Witches album these days!

 

Really? I always liked Seven Witches.

Yes, the classic Witches is getting back together, I and Jack Frost. And actually we are going to call the album “Back to the Other Side”. So, people will know right away that we will deliver the classic Seven Witches style and sound, because “Passage to the Other Side” was one of our best albums … “Passage to the Other Side” was the reason I got for the first time in Greece. I visited your country, because of that record! We did a show with Overkill!

 

You told me before Sabbath Judas Sabbath. I know that you have two other tribute bands, James Rivera’s Metal Asylum and James Rivera’s Metalwave. Can you give us some information about these projects of yours?

Basically James Rivera’s Metal Asylum is a tribute to myself! I have a band, with which, when we get an opening slot for a national act coming through, let’s say for example, for Lizzy Borden, for David Ellefson, stuff like that, I will perform songs from all the bands, with which I have played and recorded in my life, even some Helstar songs. So, we will do Flotsam and Jetsam, Destiny’s End, Distant Thunder, Killing Machine, Vicious Rumours, Malice, Shadow Keep, Seven Witches, songs from such bands. What happen is, that Metal Asylum will do a certain tribute, hmmm …, I call it a salute to a certain artist. So, right now we are doing a salute to Scorpions, you know, old Scorpions … but now I am changing that and I will do a salute to Alice Cooper. It is a tribute band to myself, but I do pick a certain character that I would like to do a full show with songs only from this artist. That allows me to do whatever I want.

 

And James Rivera’s Metalwave?

Metalwave is my new baby, and right now it is my pride and joy! And as odd as it sounds, because of the pandemic, because Sabbath Judas Sabbath has been around for twenty years and I feel I have done my fair share of saluting the metal icons, and now there are like a million tribute bands to the same artists, as far as metal is concerned, I decided to do something totally different and do a tribute to something that no one has ever done before. My other passion of music is dark wave and new wave, I am a major fanatic over bands like Depeche Mode, The Cure, Peter Murphy, Bauhaus, Echo & The Bunnymen, Tears for Fears, Siouxsie and the Banshees, all that stuff, all that good eighties new wave stuff. I thought that no one has ever done new wave heavy metal! So, I started putting this project together, I went to find the right people to join the band and it turned out right away that Larry and Garrick (Smith, bass) from Helstar were the first ones to step in the circle! They said, “Hey dude, I will do it!”. I and Larry have seen together Depeche Mode live in 1985 for the first time … So that’s basically what Metalwave is, we are doing new wave songs heavy metal style. You can listen to the clips, there’s two full songs on the website, and there’s also a trailer with two minutes from each song. We are not only learning and playing these songs live, but we also are recording songs, because there are already a few labels, who are interested in signing this thing! So I was excited, I said, “Wow, dude! You don’t have any idea how big this would get in Europe!”. It is funny, because I do know a lot of metalheads, who like this stuff, I would say that in certain countries like Germany, the Netherlands, I would think in Greece too, I know that at least 50% of the people that are really die-hard into metal, love this other music as well! I think that happens, because these two genres came about in the same time, also because some of this new wave bands are so dark that you can hear it! Wow, if these bands were doing their songs on guitars instead of keyboards, or whatever they used, …! It is a perfect world, you know, so …and the proof is there, because we just did our debut show in Austin, USA, this past Saturday and, man, the people just went insane and were saying, “Wow! This was so different and unique!”. I saw metalheads wearing Slayer T-shirts, dancing, when we played a Cure song! Haha!

 

Haha! As an epilogue, I would like you to tell us about the upcoming Helstar album!

Yes, our next full-length album will be probably be out in October 2021. So, you can see this way was a good way to do things, we gave the world a single for the first time in October 2020, and every time you put something out, your name comes to life again. Alright? That happens, now we have the “Clad in Black” double CD out and then we have a full album, coming out before the year is over, again. This keeps you in front of people’s faces, whereas if we released a full album, then toured and after two or three years released another new album, everybody would say, “What happened to these guys?!” That’s way we did things the way we did. We kind of wanted to keep the name alive out there, and give people a little bit at a time, not everything at one time.

 

OK, James, thank you very much for this interview! My best wishes!

OK, Dimitris, you know what, take care of yourself, stay safe, so that, whenever we are able to come back to Europe, and hopefully Greece will be on the map, we will get to see each other and have a little shot of ouzo, or something! Haha, bye!

 

Leaving Tomorrow is a Greek band, which is merging different musical elements (rock, folk, jazz, classical) and comes with an outstanding mixture, so intriguing for every fan of good music. Myth of Rock, excited with the band’s latest album (“Morningdom”), interviewed Alexandros Doutsis (guitar, vocals), who spoke in behalf of the band. Read Alexandros’ answers and you will understand how serious Leaving Tomorrow is.

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos


Give us a short biography of Leaving Tomorrow.

The band was formed in late 2002 and soon after we played our first gig. After a few more gigs and breaks, we rehearsed and recorded our debut, self-titled album, which came out in 2009.  A few gigs later we went through some personnel changes and finally in 2015 the current line-up got together and began rehearsing for the new album, which was recorded two years later.

You released your latest album in December 2020. Which are your feelings for this release?

We’re happy it’s out and hope people will enjoy the music and find something useful in terms of music and life philosophy in it.

Where would you trace the differences between “Morningdom” and your previous albums?

Although the instrumentation and approach is similar, there are elements in the music, which are either new or emphasized. The playing is a little different as well as the overall sound. Also, the first one was a concept album that was more like a story with twelve different chapters, whereas this one has more thematic sections under a general concept.

Why did you name the new album “Morningdom”? Which is the lyrical concept of the new songs?

It’s a symbolic “place”, where enlightenment occurs. The words describe the struggle of overcoming one’s misconceptions and acquiring a healthier philosophy of life.

How is a Leaving Tomorrow song composed?

Traditionally, more or less. You get a good idea or two and expand on them. You then fit the instruments and words to the music and strive for the best.

How would you describe the music of Leaving Tomorrow? Do you agree with the definition “progressive heavy rock”?

Progressive as a way of thinking yes, but not as a style. Sometimes it does get heavy but it’s not heavy by definition. I bet that if you listened to a performance of this music with different instrumentation/orchestration, you might not even classify it as “rock”.

Which are your musical influences? Apart from heavy rock, do you also like folk, jazz and classical music?

Lots of stuff. From folk to classical, jazz, rock, metal, electronic, ambient and everything in between.

You have both songs with lyrics and instrumental songs. Which is more fun for you?

They’re both equally satisfying. The lyrics add an extra dimension to the pieces, because you can read and hear them and, thus, they affect your impression of the music quite dramatically, while the instrumental pieces keep the focus on the instruments and sounds all of the time. 

There is a vintage feeling in your songs. Is this on purpose or accidentally?

I’m not sure what vintage means in terms of music, it is ever going. Our music is coming from the past, naturally, but is not purposefully attached to it. There’s not much merit in just repeating what has already been said, many times before, without adding something new to it.

There is also something bittersweet, a joyful sadness in your music. Do you agree with me? Why does this happen?

That would be a feeling best described in Greek as “χαρμολύπη”. However, it is hard to put into words, so we try to communicate it through music. It’s a quite natural feeling and you know it as soon as it’s there.

“Morningdom” was self-released. Why don't you cooperate with a record label?

We tried, but the ones we were in contact with didn’t give us a good deal, so we decided to go on and release it ourselves. Furthermore, record labels are not what they used to be and their importance in the remains of this industry has been greatly diminished. We, finally, believe in DIY processes and healthy music utopias.

Apart from melodies and feelings, your music has a great technique. How difficult is it for you to balance between technique and feelings?

Technique is just the tool, which helps you express what you want to express. If you acquire it just for the sake of it, it limits your intentions and actions. If you use it to get something through, then it is essential.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you personally and musically?

It actually influenced, not affected, us (cause we believe that no coronavirus pandemic can regulate our personal emotions; we are responsible for them, at the individual level). So, we had to postpone some of our plans and some of our activities became rather difficult to maintain.  At the same time it is a good opportunity for our societies to reflect and begin to reorganize, mentally first of all, but structurally too.

Are you going to tour in support of the new album? How important are live gigs for Leaving Tomorrow?

We’d love to, but the current situation does not favor long-term planning. We’d like to start playing gigs as soon as it is made possible, because it is very important for us to be able to perform in front of an audience and interact with it. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Speaking with a very favorite artist of mine, Magnus Ekwall, the vocalist of The Quill from Mönsterås Sweden, is an opportunity which does not happen very often. This time, we had a chat about the band’s new album “Earthrise” and other topics as well. Personally, I consider Magnus one of the best hard rock singers from Sweden, and it’s really a pity that the band cannot play live right now, so that we can listen to their new material but also to their old classics. Magnus is speaking to you, the readers of Myth Of Rock from his house in Mönsterås. I hope you enjoy it!

by Antonis Mantzavinos


Hello Magnus! I would like to start by asking how you are doing and how this almost one year of the terrible pandemic has affected you both musically and personally.

At the moment I feel like shit, been hospitalized for a week but hopefully getting better. Of course, it has been a different year in many, many ways. Personally, I miss meeting my friends and relatives when I want to. Music wise it has been a different year too. Since we cannot rehearse like before we have tried to write over the computer so to say. The others are sending me riffs or part of songs and I try to figure out melodies and record them at home in my basement. This is not the way we usually write music but I kind of like it. I have a few songs ready for what hopefully will be the next The Quill album.


“Earthrise” is about to be released in a few days. How does it feel to be back in action with the band releasing a new album? It’s been four years since “Born from Fire”.
It feels fine that the album finally is released. It was first set to be out in July 2020, so it has been a long wait for us. Four years is a long time, and it was not our intention to wait that long for a follow up to “Born From Fire”. With no gigs or touring we decided to put some effort in doing videos for three of the songs instead.

Give us a bit of background from the writing process for “Earthrise”. When was it recorded, your contribution to the record and any characteristic moments when you were writing/recording it?

The songs on Earthrise were all written before the pandemic and we started the recording process around Christmas 2019 and finished it late spring last year. It took a while, but we had no reason to rush things. The studio we used is close to where we live so we did it in several sessions over a long period of time. I write all the melodies and all the lyrics; I have always done that in The Quill. We kind of jam parts of songs or riffs in our rehearsal room and suddenly we got a song. This process takes a bit of time but that´s the way we do it. All four of us are active during the writing process. We recorded a bunch of songs that never made the album. Among them a couple of covers and songs in Swedish, we have some plans for them, but we will see what happens.

Listening to the record, I have noticed influences and references from/to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and/or Uriah Heep. Could you give us your opinion about how you guys wanted to make it sound like? What was your intention or thoughts?
We wanted to get the feeling we had when writing and recording “Silver Haze” in the late 90s. Back then we just wrote without any intensions at all, just had a laugh. I don´t know if it ended up like we wanted. Since we recorded many songs, we decided to make an album with all kind of different songs, slow, fast, heavy and so on.

How did you first meet with the rest of the band and how was The Quill formed back in the 90s? Additionally, how does it feel to be the same band after so many years?

I have always known Christian; we grew up in the same neighborhood. They called themselves Quil back then and needed a singer back in 1989 and we started to write some songs. We wanted a more 70s sound and it took us a few years to find the right vibe. When Roger entered the band in 1993, we found the last piece of the puzzle and started to plan for what was to become our first album. As you know I left the band back in 2007, I have had enough, and it just was not fun anymore. One day back in like 2015 Christian asked me if I could sing when they were doing a KISS cover gig at a local pub. We rehearsed and of course we tried a few old Quill tunes and suddenly Christian had a riff and I had a melody and so it went on until we had five songs we recorded. It was never a planned come back for me, but the wheels just kept turning and here we are today. Of course, the band means a lot to me and is a huge part of my life.

 

Back to “Earthrise” now: in the press release for the album, you have noted that ‘the lyrics deal with different types of alienation which I see as a rising problem in the world today’. Would you like to elaborate more on that and what specific challenges you see taking place?
I really don´t like to talk about my lyrics but it seems that I always have to because people want to know. I don´t take my lyrics too seriously, I see it more like a painting, I paint the song with words. Mainly they are about the somewhat cold world we live in today but there is also lyrics about addiction like in “Keep On Moving” and “Left Brain Blues” touches the subject diagnoses like ADHD.

What is the story behind the futuristic cover of “Earthrise”? Whose idea was it and what are the symbolisms behind? Are earth and humanity already under attack? And what are the messages behind that, in association with the lyrics of course.
The cover is made by Sebastian Jerke who also did the “Born From Fire” cover. I send him my lyrics and he kind of comes up with a few ideas and we send them back and forth until we are all satisfied. There is no message or intentions with the cover, just a cool piece of art that reflects the songs on the album.

What is the first thing that you currently miss and would like to do as soon as the pandemic ends? I could guess but I wanted your opinion, ha, ha!
Of course playing live again, miss that. Otherwise just meeting friends and family again, the way it was before the pandemic. I am not a social person, I like to be by myself at home so that is not a problem for me, but I can understand people getting frustrated when forced to stay at home, it is not good for your mental health.

Tell us a bit about your music upbringing since you were a child. Who were your music idols, bands and also who have influenced you more as a singer and artist all those years?
My mother loved music! She was a great piano- and accordion player, she always played and inspired me a lot. My dad was into big band jazz and had a great stereo set-up which I used a lot. I have recordings of me singing “Hot Love” by T-REX must have been around five years old. The first real vinyl record I bought was Nazareth – “Hair of the Dog” and I still have it in my collection. Also had Sweet – “Desolation Boulevard” and Aerosmith – “Get Your Wings” on cassette. Started to play guitar in a local band when I was around twelve, but I never had the patient to practice enough so later I became a singer. When I was a teenager, I loved Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio and I still do.

Speaking about your influences, do you have any specific Swedish artists, bands that you admire mostly and consider them as your influences while growing up?
Not really, but I grew up with ABBA. You just couldn´t escape them, they were everywhere. I like them better today than I did back then. I was really into Ebba Grön for a while, bought their first singles, played in a punk band called Suicide. I had a friend who had older brothers and we used to listen to their Nationalteatern and Motvind albums.

Do you currently listen to music and if yes, any particular artists, old or new? And also, do you prefer listening to albums through the vinyl player or you are a fan of Spotify etc?
I love vinyl, think I was the last person in this town to buy a CD player. I never got rid of my vinyl records which many of my friends did. I use Spotify mostly in my car but if I hear something, I like I buy the vinyl. I listen to old seventies rock mainly, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Faces and that kind of bands. I listen to some stoner rock; I like the latest Psychlona album for instance and Freedom Hawk and Orchid. But I am quite broad in my taste of music and can listen to Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan as well.

Any special message to your fans?

I wish that The Quill someday will be able to play Greece, never done that. Thanks for the support!


 

 

Myth of Rock and Antonis Mantzavinos had the opportunity to talk with Robert Säll (keyboards, guitars) from W.E.T. and Work of Art, two very well distinguished bands from Sweden, on their sound and genre. W.E.T. has recently released a great album, "Retransmission", so we started our conversation with this release, then we referred to lots of other interesting topics!

First of all, how are you doing, in regard to Covid-19? Health and personal wise. Has all this situation since last year affected you in writing music, playing music and rehearsing?

Yeah, it has pretty much prevented me for doing any of that. Just recently I’ve started to write a little bit again, but to be honest, I didn’t realize I’ve missed it until I started doing it again. But it feels great to be writing again.  I very much need that creative outlet, to feel content.

Having liked a lot the latest W.E.T album “Retransmission”, I would like to focus on that one. Give us some information, how and when it was recorded, about the writing process, any challenges or interesting trivia you would like to share, your personal involvement on this album, etc.

Most of the music was recorded in Erik Mårtensson’s studio, while Jeff Scott Soto recorded his vocals at his home studio in Los Angeles. I did my parts in my home studio. I played the guitar solos for “What About Love” and “One Final Kiss”. As for writing any music for this album, the only thing I wrote was the chorus for “One Final Kiss”, the rest was all Erik’s writing. Erik is the master chef, when it comes to W.E.T., so he deserves all the credits. I was more involved with the first two albums, but, over the years, it has become harder and harder for me to find time to work on the W.E.T. albums. Also, W.E.T. has become synonymous with Erik’s style of writing and no one does it better than Erik himself, so I haven’t really felt the need to contribute to the writing process on the latter two albums. The more I stay out of it, the better, haha!

This band has been created from other three different bands, of which I am a fan as well. How did this idea started from the beginning to form W.E.T. and what was your first memories forming W.E.T.? I would be really interested to know a bit of history, and how also the great Marcel Jacob was involved, few months before leaving us. How difficult is it to get connected between all you in Sweden and Jeff in the US?

Both Erik and I were approached separately by Frontiers Records about writing five-six songs for a new project featuring Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. Then, when Erik was asked to produce the album, we ditched the idea of writing separately and wrote seven songs together instead. Songs that were more in the style of the songs Erik already had written for the project. When Jeff Scott Soto heard the songs, he realized we were on to something good and we all agreed that we wanted to turn this project into a real band.  Marcel Jacob, may he rest in peace, was the guy that felt like the natural choice for the bass position, once we decided W.E.T. could become a real band. Now this was, after the record was completed and we started to think of a possible line-up for live gigs. Unfortunately, Marcel choose another destiny.  But I will always cherish the memory of hanging out with Jeff and Marcel during the time we shot the videos. Remember that we were massive fans of theirs and we got to spend time listening to their old “war stories” from days gone by. We were like kids on Christmas Eve! As far as being on different continents, it’s not a problem really. I mean, Erik has moved away from Stockholm so it’s not much different communicating with Jeff than it is with Erik, it’s emails and phone calls but that works just fine for us. However, it unfortunately means that I can’t really be involved in the writing process like I used to, because that works absolutely best when you are together in the same room. The two first records were really about me and Erik getting together in his studio with two acoustic guitars and flesh out the songs for the albums.

 

Back to the new album, it kicks off with the majestic ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’, but the whole album is my favorite of the band, only behind the first self-titled. It seems that you guys are full of such wonderful ideas and on every album, you surpass yourselves, keep on evolving, keep on having always a fresh eye on the music you create. I would like your comment on that.

Again, all credit should go to Erik as he basically wrote this album himself!

Jeff has done a fantastic job in all choruses and overall vocals, the rhythm section is solid as ever, the guitar solos and leads are incredible, the whole bonding of W.E.T. shows a full-time band, a band playing for maybe 20-25 years, and not a group which gathers up every 2-3 years to record and play a few live shows. What’s your take on this one, and how you all manage to be so consistent, so well bonded with each other?

I really don’t know, but I’m glad you feel this way. Of course, it has to do with the fact that  Erik, Magnus Henriksson (guitar) and Robban Bäck (drums) have played together in Eclipse, so they know each other very well. And I think Jeff felt right at home as the style of W.E.T. is very much inspired by bands like Talisman etc., in other words, very familiar territory for Jeff. For me it wasn’t difficult to bond with the other guys as me, Magnus and Erik went to school together for a year in 1998 and have been friends ever since. So, when the W.E.T. project came about, it just felt like the perfect opportunity to finally do something together, which was something Erik and I had talked about for years.

You play keyboards, you play guitar in Work of Art, you are a person with lots of music talent of course and many influences. Which instrument you enjoy playing more and why?

No, I don’t really play keyboards. For me it’s more about pressing down the right keys at the right time.  Again, the original idea behind W.E.T. was for me to be involved mainly as a songwriter. It was only, when we started to talk about live shows that I got the role as the “keyboard player”. Out of the three guitar players in W.E.T., I was the one who at least knew how to turn on a keyboard, haha! And the irony of this is that I represent the W in W.E.T., in other words “Work of Art”, but I am by far the least skilled keyboard player in Work of Art. So those guys are having a good laugh at the fact that I’ve become the keyboard player for W.E.T. But having said all this, the keyboard parts for W.E.T. are not more difficult than that I can pull them off live.

 

Work of Art has already released four great albums, the first one being my personal favorite, but all of them hold fantastic quality and musicianship. It was formed in the ‘90s if I am not mistaken, tell us a bit of the history of the band, how did you create it, its origins and trip through the years and what is the vision you have with that.

I met Herman Furin (drums) in high school in 1992. We realized that we both shared the love for AOR and started to record demos together. He had a little studio at home and we both had lot of songs already written when we met, so we had a lot of material to work on right away. Herman knew Lars Säfsund, as they had grown up in the same area and invited him to play keyboards. Long story short, a couple of years later, Lars switched from playing keyboard to singing, which was perfect for us, as we couldn’t find a singer who could sing this type of music. However, the style of the early Work of Art material was more in a Bon Jovi, Europe, Whitesnake style and Lars wasn’t really into that, so by 1996 we laid the band on ice. Then a couple of years later I presented a couple of new songs to Lars and Herman that was more in the direction Lars liked, so we decided to give it another go. Then some ten years passed before we stopped talking about doing something with those songs and actually went ahead and recorded them. Those recordings found their way to Frontiers Records, which signed us right away.

 

I must say that I would not strictly characterize Work of Art as a purely AOR band, in a ‘sterile’ way, as I recognize many different influences and filters in all albums. Actually, I never liked those strict ‘labels’ for bands. Which bands, artists have been your influences, since you were growing up? And also, apart from foreign influences, I would be interested to ask who are the Swedish artists that you have listened to the most, since you were a kid/teenager and you would like to share with us.

I’ve always been “all over the place” when it comes to influences and styles, but if I had to boil it down to bands that has influenced me the most for the Work of Art style, it’s Toto, Chicago and Saga. And a Swedish band that has had a huge influence on our sound, in particular on Lars vocals and his arrangement ideas for backing vocals, is a Swedish duo called Big Money. The love for their debut record was one of the first things we realized we had in common, when we first met in the early nineties. It was produced by Michael B. Tretow, who was ABBA’s producer and kind of like “the fifth” ABBA member.

 

It should be exciting to know, if there is a new Work of Art album to be released soon, even though “Exhibits” came a couple of years ago. Are you currently working or rehearsing on new material?

No, there are no Work of Art plans at the moment. I notice that the interest in the band has become less and less with every new album, so the idea of making another Work of Art album is not on my horizon, to be honest. We have reached a point where I feel it’s just not worth the effort anymore.

 

If you had to choose one highlight moment for each one of your bands so far, what would you choose?
With Work of art, the highlight was, when we got to support Toto on the Swedish dates in 2012. That’s something I will always remember with a big smile on my face. With W.E.T., it is probably the first live show we did at Firefest. One of the headliners of the festival pulled out and we got asked with a very short notice, but somehow, and with only like one rehearsal, we pulled it off and it was a great feeling being on stage together and meeting all the fans.

 

If I am not mistaken, you work as a music teacher in a culture school. What are the challenges a music teacher is facing and how has that helped you with being a musician? And also, how easy is it to combine a full-time job with touring, rehearsing, etc.?
The greatest challenge being a guitar teacher these days is that the guitar as an instrument has become very much out of fashion. There will always be some rock guys around, but those students are becoming more and more rare. It’s sad really. But the really good thing about my job is that it’s very flexible, if something comes up, I can always move around the lessons so I can free time, when I need. And as long as it stays that way, it’s perfect.

 

Last but not least, what do currently listen to? Any new band/album? Do you prefer listening to music through your stereo, or do you prefer the more digital platforms more (e.g. Spotify).
I don’t really listen to new stuff. The older I get, the more I tend to go back and listen to older music. I mostly listen to 70s stuff these days. I have a Brennan B2 CD player. It is a CD player with a hard drive, wi-fi and Bluetooth connections etc. And I’ve ripped my whole CD collection, some 2500+ CDs, to its hard drive, so now I can browse through my entire collection via my computer or iPhone, very convenient.

 

Thank you very much Robert for your time, I really appreciate this! Cheers, till next time!

Thank you as well, take care!