Newsonic, a band from Rio de Janeiro Brazil, released their newest album “Vorax” on June 27th, 2019. I had actually never heard of this band before, however I had been asked to check them out and review the album. I’m so glad I gave them a listen. I’ve been through Vorax several times now, and I can’t stop listening to it! It’s a great blend of hard rock, progressive metal and even symphonic metal. The band sounds similar to bands such as Dream Theatre, Symphony X, and at times even more straight hard rock like Creed.
Below is a review of a select few tracks from the album, followed by my overall feelings on the album.
The album opens up with a track called “Tornado”, which has a very progressive metal sound to it. After a lighter 17 second intro, the main riff kicks in, so get ready for a “tornado”! (Pun intended). This song very much reminds me of Dream Theatre instrumentally. Anderson’s voice is powerful, yet very well balanced.
This song, to me, is about the fear of loss, particularly of a loved one. We can all relate to losing a loved one. That feeling of hopelessness in the face of such great sadness. Sometimes, death is self inflicted, and with that comes anger, confusion, hurt and sadness.
“Winds of death that bring me tears
Painful waters of an angry sea
Bear down on my hope
I think I cannot resist”
This part speaks to me on a personal level. I’ve had many losses of loved ones in my life, two of which were from suicide. When I lost two loved ones from suicide, it was more painful than I had ever imagined. The tears that flowed were out of pain, but also out of anger and the fear of “Could I have done anything differently?” These feelings would bear down on me to the point where I felt like I was drowning.
Another track that I really enjoy is “I’m Alive”. I love the symphonic metal intro with strings and guitar at the forefront. For me, this songs speaks of victory of those who try to knock us down. We’re all too familiar with that feeling; whether it be someone in your family, someone at work etc. For the longest time, I was in a very toxic work environment, surrounded by those who wanted to knock me down. Sometimes it’s out of jealousy, other times it’s just because the person trying to knock you down is insecure, and needs to make themselves feel above you.
“Just take your aim
And try to shoot me down
If you sow evil seeds
You will reap my revenge”
Too many times in that toxic work environment did I fell like I was being shot down, stabbed in the back, etc. To me though, I learned the hard way that it was only because I gave those people power over me by allowing them to shoot me down. The more evil they were towards me, the harder it got. But I eventually learned that my revenge came in the form of rising above them and being a better person than they were.
The next track that really jumps out at me musically is “King of Ice”. This song really has a Creed vibe to me. Between the instruments and the vocals, this song reminds me a lot of them. While I can’t personally relate to what the song speaks of lyrically, I very much enjoy the vocals and sound of this song. The melody, specifically in the chorus, is great!
The final track I’ll talk about is “Terminal”. This track musically is awesome, and I absolutely love the vocals on this one. This song, to me, talks about how fragile life can be, and how we spend our time is so important. While I wasn’t very close with him, my Father passed away from cancer when I was like 14 years old. At the time, I didn’t even know of his diagnosis until it was late in the stages. (My full brother and I lived with our Mom, so we hardly even saw Dad). We had spent some time over the years prior visiting, and building some sort of relationship, but once Mom found out about the Cancer, she kept us away for some time, just because she didn’t know how to tell us. When she finally did tell us, it was already close to the end. I maybe spoke to him once or twice on the phone before he passed away.
“If you knew that my condition is terminal You would try to stop time But we both know Time had come”
This, to me, feels like my Dad saying this to me. If I had known his condition at all, I would’ve tried to have spent some more time with him before his time had come. (I have to add that I don’t in anyway blame my Mom for this. She did what she thought was best and I stand by her decision 100% because she always has out best interest in mind.). I do to this day though wonder what it would’ve been like to spend more time with him before he passed away.
I’m very happy I was told about this band by Jessica. I’ve always enjoyed this type of music and vocals and this band doesn’t disappoint! I really hope they make it big.
Japanese rocker, Hyde, visited Maryland opening for acts Sevendust and In This Moment, along with Light the Torch as another opener. Hyde was the highlight of my evening as that was the main act I was going to see.
I have been a fan of Hyde for about 20 years, ever since he was the vocalist of the band L’Arc-en-Ciel. I was also a fan of Hyde’s acting career though I have only seen one movie, Moon Child, with Japanese rocker, Gackt. Having been a fan for so long as soon as I saw the show announcement I immediately went to see ticket prices. I was disappointed when no VIP tickets were confirmed for this particular date as a meeting would have been the cherry on the cake. My friend and I did manage to snap a photo of Hyde in his bus though. 😉
Though I was only there for Hyde, the other bands were great as well. I had never seen or even heard much of Light the Torch before the show, however they were really great and I have become an instant fan. Sevendust were another highlight as I have been a fan for a few years. Was really excited when they managed to sing two of my favourites! If you have never heard of Sevendust or Light the Torch do so now.
In This Moment, however, were a disappointment, at least for me. I use to be a fan of ITM with their previous albums, but the music doesn’t seem as important to them as much as the theatrics and presentation are now. Please guys, go back to the music. The props are too much and takes away from the lyrical content and the overall enjoyment of a live show experience. If I want to go see a play I will. I have to give you guys kudos for the finale though. That was the best part of your entire performance.
There were several others who were only there for Hyde as they left as soon as he was finished. Being my first Hyde live experience I was not disappointed. He puts on one hell of a performance, has a great voice live, and even likes to smash his own props (video below haha). If you have never heard of Hyde before but are a fan of jrock and awesome shows, please check this guy out. Another downside, apart from no VIP, was that we were literally at his bus, not many others around, and he did not come out. Come on man! How often do you come to the East Coast of the USA?
Even with the main act being a major disappointment, Hyde and the other bands made it worthwhile. If In This Moment had been playing alone, I would have been majorly disappointed! Next time give Hyde more show time. 😉
Today, we are reviewing magick combined with mead, as we review Teshaleh’s new (and first) EP, Born of Fire (released February 1st, 2019). Teshaleh consists of Lori Glimmer on Vocals, Vanessa Harris also on Vocals, Brett McCoy on Guitar, John Harford on Bagpipes, pfeifer and shawms (I know you’re desperately Googling now), Colin Parker on Violin, Chris Welborn on Bass, Dan Wise on Drums and Percussion, and Damien McCoy on Keyboards. Many talented musicians, sharing an eclectic stage together.. How will this adventure end?
We start with a dramatic set of strings on Ancient Brotherhood to kick off the EP. A strong eerie voice introduces the song and band, and we get into a gypsy-rock groove. The lyrics start the story as the music evolves throughout the tale. Overall, Ancient Brotherhood perfectly captures what you should expect from Teshalah.
The title track, Born of Fire, seduces you from beginning to end. A pronounced instrumental that’s guaranteed to have you swaying and rock every second of the song.
In Taberna is the fastest-paced out of the songs, and definitely worth a listen.. Or a few, to make sure you keep up with the chanting! This memorable diddy promises to stay in your head all day.
Nowhere Near Enough is definitely the jingle to that will catch anyone’s ears, and leads on where In Taberna left off. It sounds to me a song to gather your friends to drink a pint over. The only downside? It’s the shortest song on the EP.
Finally, we finish up with Totentanz, which shows the complementary of vocals to the music. A great finale to combine and wrap up the whole EP, the ladies express their strength through singing as the band thunders behind them. It nicely ends the EP on a definitive note.
All in all, Teshaleh delivers exciting journeys and smashing melodies on their first EP. A combination of chants and vocals amplified by the contributions of merriment and contributions of each individual instrument (Have you found out what shawms are yet?) will have you jamming each song, toe tapping, and swashbuckling your way through your day.
Dutch symphonic metal group Within Temptation are back with their seventh studio album, but word these days is that they no longer refer to themselves as ‘symphonic metal.’ RESIST takes their traditional habit of incorporating various genres into their music and multiplies it by a thousand in the form of a ten-track album. Not a long enough album for you? Surprise yourself. The content of the tracks may be enough to satisfy you the same way a longer album would, especially with songs upwards of nearly six minutes. Whereas listeners are right to expect metal, symphonic metal, and goth metal, RESIST offers up something we may or may not have noticed in their previous work: a focus on electronics and some underlying pop influences roughed up into an interesting presentation into the rock scene.
Opening this newer sound is THE RECKONING featuring Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach. An interesting duet that could arguably be the strongest track of the album, depending on who you ask. The war-tone of the track features an almost trumpet-sounding overlay that sounds roughed up to fit in a traditional rock form, and the method just works. The blend of clear vocals from Sharon den Adel mixed with the darker tone from Shaddix is the highlight of this track, but there is much to love from the entirety.
ENDLESS WAR is immediately different, but the listener would have to pay close attention to pick up on one of the used instruments here: there is an underlying piano that can be heard in the outro, but upon a few listens and some straining, exists underneath the rest of the surprisingly smooth mainstream take.
RAISE YOUR BANNER featuring Anders Friden of IN FLAMES goes back to the established war-tone we started with in The Reckoning. If the concept of the album is to push back against the forces holding us down these days, this song captures that perfectly. We have a guitar solo in this one (which we lack on most, if not all other tracks) that very much pumps the energy into the concept. Sharon’s voice really brings home a sense of power and resistance that gives the album a great kick with RAISE YOUR BANNER, especially with her Mother-Earth style outro.
The ever-popular SUPERNOVA, which fans in Europe got a live taste of during their 2018 tour, hits square in the chest as one of the most powerful songs on the album. Even the instrumental is enough to reach up and slap you in the face, demanding you tell it the main genre it is reaching for and feeling rightly accomplished when you can’t. With Supernova, Within Temptation has taken different genres that one might cringe to hear together and blended into something that offers such a pleasant surprise that we’re sure even Within Temptation themselves are pleased. Based on fan reaction, it could even be the band’s most popular song on the album.
HOLY GROUND takes a different turn and brings the listener a sense of what ‘angry Sharon’ would sound like. While the chosen vocal style may not sit well with some, the lyrics and message make up a song that could very well be open to interpretation from the listener. A sense of electronics overlay this track with what sounds like a go-to formula for the chorus. All in all, 50/50 for who will like it and who won’t, but a powerful track nonetheless.
IN VAIN is arguably the most “pop” track on RESIST. It follows a very simple structure both musically and lyrically, full of repetitions of instruments that have the song blending into something generally unmemorable. The lyrics are predictable and simple, but sometimes simple is better. While it isn’t the strongest song on the album, it certainly isn’t the weakest, and could lend to some light listening when the listener isn’t looking for something too intense.
FIRELIGHT, a track too dark for Sharon den Adel’s solo album MY INDIGO, was roughed up and placed on RESIST. As a stand-alone track, it is beautiful and haunting and the lyrics lend to an interesting take on pain and life. Does it fit with RESIST and its concept? Some say it could, but if it were trying to be as bold-faced as the other tracks, the resounding answer would be no. The ‘dark pop’ tones are an interesting choice for the meaning of the song, however, and if a listener who may not like it tied to RESIST can separate it and treat it as a stand-alone or a B-Side to MY INDIGO, it may have a lot of potential to be great.
MAD WORLD can be considered another one of the most “pop” tracks on this album. In the reviewer’s opinion, it’s the weakest on the album, though I highly encourage everyone to give it a chance. Public consensus is that it actually isn’t and that it’s enjoyable. Like IN VAIN, it seems to follow a simple, repetitive formula, but consists of lyrics that aren’t all that memorable. You may or may not be humming it to yourself later. Another 50/50 on whether or not the listener will enjoy.
There are certainly hints to Sharon’s father’s passing on this album, but none highlight it more than MERCY MIRROR. A ballad of sorts, Sharon delivers lyrics of grief and loss, and it definitely hits home. A song everyone who has experienced some kind of loss can relate to, it has the potential to be the strongest in terms of genuine emotion. “It’s a wicked game life plays,” indeed.
Finally, TROPHY HUNTER comes to a pretty close tie with SUPERNOVA as being the strongest track on RESIST. It’s certainly the heaviest next to The Reckoning, especially with the guitars becoming audible once more in the beginning and the drums reminding us, “WE EXIST!” Paired with a memorable bridge and a fun chorus to sing, and Sharon den Adel’s voice soaring above and taking the listener hostage for the whole 5:51 song, it’s a winner that was definitely best saved for last. Ending on a heavy note to remind us who they are? A pretty Within Temptation thing to do.
The biggest argument with this record looks to be the lack of guitars and the muted drums. Metal fans may be disappointed, as this album explores many different genres and blends them together into one sound, and the songs themselves have the tendency of all sounding the same at times. Overall, however, if treated like the experiment Within Temptation meant it to be, it is a truly fun album to listen to in order to get your energy flowing. Its Top 20 chart rankings all over the world say that much!
Today, we are interviewing Empress, a band consisting of members Barbara Blackthorne (lead vocals), Vlad Khavin (guitar), Mark Stainthorpe (drums), Joseph Muir (guitar), and Nicholas Bonsanto (bass). They just released their first single “Black Arcana” January 23, 2019 and are quickly catching the ears and eyes of people everywhere! We sat down for a quick introduction interview for this symphonic/power metal band.
Hello, and thanks for taking time out for this interview, it’s appreciated! Without another second, let’s get right into it. You seem to be a relatively new band with a quick hit following. First week alone, your single “Black Arcana” hit over 1,000 likes! How in the world did you manage that accomplishment?
Nick: “First, we’d like to take this time to thank you for interviewing us, every single person who has shown interest at all means a lot to us, we
honestly didn’t expect this much buzz right away! It’s pretty amazing, ya know?
We’ve worked on the music privately for many months and we really believe in this stuff so when we finally decided to announce the band to the world we told all of our friends, families and coworkers then of course shared everything we had extensively across social media and its been a lot of fun, sort of stressful, like sending your child to their first day of school but ultimately it’s been rewarding and beyond expectation.”
Barbara: “I feel like to one degree or another, each one of us has a little
following from past things we’ve worked on, so I feel that it definitely helped. Then the video got shared a ton by people and that helped spread it
around. We’ve been pretty thrilled to watch the numbers climb higher &
higher and see people respond so positively.”
Mark: “We’ve all been active musicians and fans of the local music around the Philly area so our initial audience was healthy from the start. Being able to share a quality recording and lyric video from the get-go has also helped us gain credibility in our work.”
It’s always great to see members telling a little about themselves, ie the bios shared on social media. How did y’all come together?
Vlad: “Well, the short answer is it was Mark’s fault. He and I ran into each other at a show. He saw me play in Infernal Opera, and I saw him a few weeks later with Percussor. Chat messages went back and forth and it turned out we listened to a bunch of the same stuff. At one point he put out a call on Facebook for people to jam with, and both Joe and I said we were interested. I didn’t know Joe at the time, but we got together in Mark’s basement one night, and so it began. I had some material I was working on at the time so we started working on that together. Black Arcana was actually the first original tune we jammed.
We went through a few auditions for vocalists. It was a diverse group of people with varied styles. To be perfectly honest, we were getting a little discouraged because even though the folks we tried out were good, they were not the voice we were looking for. We did meet some really cool people though! And then, in came Barbara. I think we knew she was it the moment she started singing. All we needed was a bass player… Nick was tried out on bass the next week, and so a year after that first jam, Empress was born.”
Mark: “I initially posted on social media that I was seeking members to start a new band. The replies were generous…having already seen Vlad and Joe rock at local venues with Infernal Opera and Seeds of Perdition, no audition was required! We began writing together and auditioned a few vocalists along the way before Barbara. We were blown away with her audition performance and offered her the gig on the same night. Nick had come along with Barbara to check out the band she was auditioning for. He liked it so much he wanted to come back and audition for bass the following week. Barbara, now a member got to decide unanimously with the group to invite Nick into the band.”
For the guys (I don’t see band history for Barbara), how is this band different from previous ones you’ve played in? Lots of years of experience here!
Nick: “This band is different for me mostly due to the symphonic elements like our click track and the strings and orchestration happening but beyond that, playing with such an incredible vocalist is really what makes this band shine for me. I came from a thrash and progressive background so I feel comfortable with this yet excited by a whole side of metal I have hardly explored.”
Vlad: “It’s, to me, an evolution. I’ve never done anything with symphonic elements before but I had wanted to for years now. It’s not always easy to find a group of likeminded people though! We definitely have elements of the progressive metal that I had played in the past and the thrashier stuff I’ve done more recently. With Empress, the style is grander and far more expansive than anything I’ve ever done before, and also technically and technologically challenging.”
Joe: “I am very new to playing metal when compared to everyone else in the band. My first metal band was Seeds of Perdition, a death metal group. Seeds was a very different breed of death metal, focusing more on catchy riffs and songwriting. It was a very good introduction to the genre. Empress is a similar idea, heavy, technical riffs that come together to make something epic and catchy. Empress differs a lot for me because it’s a sound I am not too familiar with, and one that I am always learning more about.”
Mark: “My previous experiences included rock bands, black and death metal bands. This band has allowed me to expand past the typical extreme metal styles and try out some more progressive chops.”
Speaking of the bios, it seems as though “Video games” is a common hobby. Do you think that was a major influence in your music? (Anyone who says games don’t have good soundtracks is indubitably wrong.)
Vlad: “Oh yes! Beyond any doubt. Video games are a huge inspiration to me. Their soundtracks are often full of gems, but also just the lore is a
great source of inspiration.”
Joe: “When not listening to Leonard Cohen, Frank Zappa, or Captain Beefheart, I am blasting video game soundtracks. Anyone who says games don’t have good soundtracks is wrong and should feel bad (just listen to DOOM 2016’s soundtrack and tell me it doesn’t make you want to rip and tear). We want Empress to be the soundtrack to life! It definitely makes an impact. I’m always sending the guys songs from games.”
Mark: “I love PC games and MMORPG’s and they usually have awesome music that inspires me.”
Barbara: “Video games and general geekery are almost always a huge influence on anything I do. When you play a game, you’re listening to the music from that soundtrack for countless hours and if you love it, it’s impossible that it doesn’t stay with you in some way, I think. There’s one song in particular we have that’s video game inspired, actually, but that’s all I’ll say on that for now ;).”
Nick: “I have always loved video games and their music. Zelda has always been especially dear to my heart, even when I was a kid I dreamt of either making games or music, one of those did not pan out but I can still combine my favorite passions today. Soundtracks to games and movies will always be an inspiration to what I’ve done musically.”
“Black Arcana”, as mentioned above, has become quite popular. What else should we look forward to in terms of future music?
Barbara: “Variety. One of the things that I’m most proud of with this band is the spin we’re doing on the genre. Every song has its own unique character while remaining undeniably Empress. We all come from different backgrounds and bring our own set of skills & influences to the table, and it comes together to create something that I feel is very special. I am incredibly excited to unveil more of what we have to offer.”
Nick: “We hope people are enjoying Black Arcana! It was our first song we
performed together and we felt it was fitting as the first song to release as it captures the essence of the band with a strong chorus to sing along to but I am personally very excited to show everyone what else we have been working on. The only way to hear the rest is to see us live which everyone will have a chance soon!
We are planning our second single release sooner than you think and it’s a lot of fun to play, faster paced for sure. Each song we currently have has a unique identity and I think expresses a different side of Empress. There is a faster power metal edge to us, then there is definitely a progressive side that we love exploring and then there’s the symphonic elements throughout as well as something equally important to us, which is writing great hooks and melodic songs that feel like anthems you can sing along with. We don’t want to compromise anywhere, we very much want to live up to our name, Empress and rule the stage.”
Any plans for touring just yet? I see you are coming near my area, Delaware, with the mighty A Sound of Thunder (DC hometown heroes) and MasterSword. Can we expect more stops with the people, because my little nerd heart is so happy – I am NOT missing this show! 🙂
Nick: “It will be great to meet you in person if you come out to the show in Delaware, we are so very excited to play with A Sound of Thunder and Master Sword, two bands we love and truly it will be an epic night for front women of metal! We have no current plans to tour but we are looking to book a couple shows before that one on June 29th. Some local dates around Philly and NJ area.”
Mark: “Glad to hear you’ll be attending! We will be booking ourselves for the foreseeable future. There are a couple dates and venues that have been offered in our first week so that’s awesome! Our plan is to get around our Northeast area this year.”
Barbara: “I’m looking forward to meeting you then! That show is going to be all sorts of awesome and I can’t wait to share the stage with A Sound of Thunder & Master Sword. As of right now, there’s no plans for a tour in 2019 as we’re focusing on releasing more content and playing shows in the
greater Philly area.”
Finally, anything else you’d want to tell us? Social media-wise, a joke, ending words?
Nick:“I would like to say thanks again for having us, we look forward to seeing everyone at upcoming shows and until then rocking out to our songs online, there will be more info and things happening on our page so just keep an eye out for all the announcements, we have only just begun!”
Barbara: “Thank you very much for the interview! And thank you to everyone who has been liking, sharing, and spreading the word about us. Our legion is growing and we hope that you’re just as excited as we are to take this journey with us.”
Joe: “All Hail Empress!”
You can find Empress on all social medias and their website (if you act now, you can also get a free download link to Black Arcana). Individual bios are also found on their social medias and websites, respectively.
Interviewed by Jessica Clingempeel & Joshua Becker
Hello Kevin, thanks for doing this interview with us. In September 2018, Tarja finally made it back to the states. I was cheering you guys on in NYC. How did the shows go in the States?
“It was great to finally do some shows in the USA after 8 full years seeing the rest of the world with all my crazy friends. The shows went well. It was interesting seeing the contrast between the international audiences and the one here in the USA. It was a totally different perspective on things. It was a pleasure to play all of the shows, NYC especially. That was the best show of the USA tour.”
Do you think her next album will bring more shows to the States?
“Tarja has a 2-3 year cycle of things, and we are about to start that cycle fresh this year….. Europe festivals, I’m sure Europe tour, South America, etc. I’ve been in over 60 countries with her so I imagine its only a matter of time within the cycle that we are back. I’m sure it wont be 9 years this time!! In all honesty, touring in the USA is not easy for ANY international band. But any international band always finds a way to get to places where their fans live. Some places are easier than others. The USA, as a country, does not make that easy for the fans of overseas artists to tour. The United States, and this moment in time, for international musicians, is probably THE MOST difficult country to tour in, in the world. As hard as China. Harder than Russia. Its not a concern for ME, but I am the only American in the band, so it does effect me!!”
What is the worst thing that has ever happened on tour?
“I’ve never been asked that….. so many things come to mind. Some personal, some musical. Some just LIFE. Personally? It’s my feeling that the worst thing that can ever happen on tour is if nobody shows up to see you. Tarja does NOT have this issue. She certainly has a loyal and steady fan base. Everywhere! But, not every artist, of whom I have played with, have that core to work from. Her fans should be proud of the collective THEY have created!! And continue to build it.
Regardless of whom you are a fan of, just remember that to us, the musicians, we tour for YOU. And we want you all to see us do what we love to do. We admire so many of you who come to shows around the world. But I will be honest, and this can be said for no matter WHO I play with or for: we need the lovers of music to unite when we happen to be in town, under the roof we provide, to create those special moments. They are, for YOU. Especially with Tarja and her great band. It’s the best band I have ever played in. We’re all damn proud of it. The worst thing that could EVER happen on tour, is that people don’t get to see just how far we have taken it, in the live show. All musicians want to create an experience that cant be forgotten. I don’t think the band has ever been better. Come to the shows!!! I’m not afraid to say, it’s BETTER than Nightwish. Let us PROVE it to you, if you are a denier or a skeptic.”
Regarding Tarja’s new album, will you be taking part in any, if not all, bass recordings?
“Of course, always. She has an amazing team of people that are constantly moving things in new and interesting musical directions.”
Any other details about the new album you can give us, or shall more be released to us “soon”?
“I am honest when I tell you, I only put things on my calendar when there is a plane ticket in my hand to begin the journey again. Stay tuned!!! You likely know as much as me!! HA!!”
Moving on, back in 2013 you had brain surgery due to epilepsy. How has it been since then?
“It has its ups and downs, but I am still Alive. What can I say? When you go thru something like that, each day has meaning. That comes with a price….. as the meaning is not always good!! BUT, somedays, the miracle of the fact that I am touring AT ALL comes into plain sight….. and I realize that I am a lucky to be doing it. There are close call, believe me. It doesn’t slow me down. If you have medical challenges, “nothing is going to stop me” is the only choice. My normal is fucked up. But, we all can say that in ways. I’m not special. So, I pick up my complications, try my hardest, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. If you want to do this AT ALL, regardless of if you have a health consideration, that’s the only mindset that will allow you to survive as an artist. Artists are the toughest of us all, sometimes. Don’t forget: most musicians put up with rejection, apathy, judgement…. and refuse to let it EVER stop us. Throw a health concern into this equation. An occasional seizure is still far easier than making a living in the music business. HA!!!”
Kudos to you for not allowing epilepsy to keep you from doing what you love. Has it ever hindered your ability to play though or keep you from giving your all?
“Thank you for that. I’ve played gigs after having seizures. I internalize the music, so its strange. Even in the delirium of waking up from a seizure, I can walk on stage and playa show, to nearly the highest level. (google Thessaloniki 2017 as an example). In ways, not thinking about it makes it easy. I don’t usually remember the show. It’s kind of bizarre….. Yes, I have missed a few shows. But, I can usually pull 90 minutes out of me, no matter how shitty I feel. A stage always seems to help me feel better.”
Moving on to the Swedish show you have recently been part of. How did you get involved in Allt För Sverige?
“I was asked a few years ago by a casting agent in LA if I would be interested…. But it never worked out with my touring schedule. 2018 was the first year I was available. When you live in LA, there are always small, strange connections to things. I ended up in Sweden, in other words, because hearing about that kind of stuff is normal, as someone who lives in LA and knows people in the broader entertainment business. It’s connected world wide, and it’s all rooted in Los Angeles, CA. But it was driven when I realized I had a chance to, in ways, reconnect my Swedish Heritage, reconnecting a lost link. In that strange quest, I have succeeded!!”
According to the description on the show, it is a reality show to meet long lost Swedish relatives. What was the process like about finding out about your heritage?
“It was revealing. I didn’t expect to find that my great great grandfather was sold into slavery by his own mother. But escaped, left Sweden and moved to America, creating a critical piece in the amazing family I am a part of. It hurt in ways. But then, it makes sense. Al Moberg, my great great grandfather, had challenges, just like me. And didn’t give up. Now I know why I am such a tough, stubborn old bastard that refuses to quit. Al Moberg and many like him, created the American spirit of fearlessness. I’m proud to uphold that legacy”.
When you get home from a long gig, or a lot of touring, what is the very first thing you do?
“I remember after a 32 hour flight home from Tokyo, in the wrong direction, Tokyo-Rome-Paris-Atlanta-Detroit-Escanaba, instead of the direct over the pacific flight, I kissed the ground. After this last tour, I totally unplugged all my devices and stared at the trees for a few days. It continued almost 2 months. 2018 was a bitch. It’s beyond exhausting. Tours never end happy. Because the tour is ending. Even though, you are exhausted. It’s complicated. You’re happy to be home but sad because you aren’t on the road. Every musician knows EXACTLY what I am talking about.”
You have been very vocal about the political state of our country lately, and with the Presidency. If you were a mouthpiece for the government, what would you say to them, and what policies would you change to make things better for us all?
“The mouthpiece TO them? Or FOR them? TO them (meaning any leader of any country, since we are talking politics), I would say the simple shit. If you care about your country more than you care about yourself, you are free to stay. If not, please consider another profession. Greed is the universal thing that divides people. Nothing can be successful if its run by people who openly dislike the idea of it even existing in the first place. How can you be a political leader if you say “government IS the problem”? YOU are government. You can’t build the house and tear it down at the same time. I honestly think the changes are nothing more than decisions we need to accept, as we all are forced to do in our own lives. There’s no right or wrong, there’s only compromise and results. It’s the easy way out to be famous for being against things. The path of a leader is to be FOR things. At that goes down to each and every one of us. What are YOU….. FOR!!!!?? Not AGAINST!!!? Would our leaders PLEASE rise to the occasion? And start to work FOR us, once again, as is possible? It’s our choice at the ballot box, then their choice, once in office. Only to be held accountable….. by THE PEOPLE. We all must join, then remain, in the conversation. To not care is to simply let the idiots win. Personally, I would never want to be the mouthpiece FOR the government. I DO know how to talk a lot however!! HA!! For future thought!!!!”
Do you find being successful in music makes certain things difficult, for example, going to a grocery store without being recognized? In other words, does your profession keep you from living a normal life?
“Not at ALL. People in Escanaba are people I have known my entire life. I’m not Kevin there. I am “Jack Chown’s kid”. As it has always been and always will be. Its why I love it there. It has NEVER changed. Not one iota. People there will see me and talk about the weather. In LA? I’m the least famous person in THIS town, believe me. That stuff happens on tour, but its supposed to. That’s part of touring….. running into fans. I enjoy it.”
Having been in the music industry for so long, what is one key thing you would change about it, to make better for you, and other professional artists in the industry?
“WHEW. Where to begin? When I fell in love with music, at the time, music was what defined everyone. Were you a metalhead? A new-waver? A punk rocker? A fan of pop music? Country? Or, did you just love some of EACH of them? That was me. I love all music. But, I say this because there was a time when MUSIC, not social media, not gaming, not even movies or TV at the time….. shaped culture and how each of us fit into that culture, based in music. It drove our hairstyles. Our fashion choices. Our attitudes. It created our groups of friends. Its was led to us forming our first bands. That culture has been lost, and as a result, people are defined by a much broader menu of cultural options….. and music has lost its greater audience. People still and will always love music. BUT, its not like it used to be.There is no doubt the business has gotten smaller since I started. Its up to the fans of music to look back to the history of its role in our lives. If music matters to YOU? Then, spread the gospel. I hope one day, for music to return to being the themes to what matters to us. That’s when good music HAPPENS. When culture and music are in tune with each other. What the music business needs, just like any other, is customers. WE call them FANS. No mater what, if musicians cant make a living, there will be fewer people making music. I have watched it happen in my lifetime. Are the fans of music, who are the TRUE music business, aware of this? Musicians, with the exception of very few, are all normal people. We have bills, a life, health problems….. just like everyone. The more we have OF your, the more we can then give back TO YOU. Because we can make a decent living. Believe me, being a musician is NEVER easy. The music business, and everyone who is a part of it, needs nothing more than YOU.”
It’s been a little while since we heard anything from Der Elefant, and the Facebook page is not updated much anymore. Are there any future
collaborations in the works?
“Me and Alex have thrown a few concepts around about what we want to do next. I’m sure we will be doing something when the universe makes it so. That goes for nearly anything I do. Nothing in life is certain, let alone in the music business. It happens when it happens. Then you make it the best you can make it.”
What about a future with Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats?
“I just returned to LA for the first time since May. Jeff has been gone. Ed is all over the place with his solo career as well as Robbie Krieger, Chad of course, is all over the place. This is the first time we all have been in LA at the same time in a few years. There’s talk, we even have about half a record written. Its just a matter of time. We just never seem to have enough time to do it!!”
What else would you like to say to our readers and to all your fans out there?
“I would say, it’s an honor to play music for you all. Keep the love moving forward. We live in a crazy world. We’re all surrounded by bullshit on a daily basis. It’s an honor to help create a world of openness, optimism and honesty, all rooted upon the waves of music. The bullshit is always at the doorstep, but at a show, at least for those 90 minutes, it’s a pleasure to be part of creating a moment that matters from time to time, for anyone who’s looking to come in search of a moment, away from the madness. We’re all in this together.”