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Ion Vein

The from Chicago hailing power metal band Ion Vein already made quite an impression with their two digital only EP-releases ‘IV V1.0’ and ‘IV V2.0’. Now they have chosen to release their third full-length album, simply entitled ‘Ion Vein’, as a physical CD. Digital only or physical, Ion Vein again delivers great work on this eponymously entitled new album and as a result of that Lords Of Metal contacted guitar player/bandleader Chris Lotesto to see what has happened lately in the Ion Vein camp….

By: Sjak | Archive under heavy / power metal

Chris, the last time we spoke was for the release of the digital format only EP ‘IV V2.0’. What did that EP do for the band and how do you look back to that release yourself now?
We kinda were stuck between a rock and a hard place, since it was so long since we had a release and the plan that we had with Mortal Music together is to get some new music out just to get the channels going again. So the releases of both digital only EP’s ‘IV V1.0’ and ‘IV V2.0’ were meant to really get some recognition in the scene again, but what was kind of surprising to us was that people were actually waiting for a physical release. Here in the US physical CD’s aren’t really popular anymore, but the need for an actual Ion Vein CD was becoming quite apparent. However, it took us quite some time before the album was actually finished, so you might say that ‘IV V2.0’ set us up for the full release.

You already mentioned back then that a physical release was on its way, which would contain the six tracks of both digital only Eps as well as six brand new tracks. Were these six new songs already written during the time of the EP releases?
To be honest, all twelve songs were already written when ‘IV V1.0’ was released. We were already planning to release the album with our previous singer in 2009, but we pulled the plug because things didn’t work out with him back then. It was ready to go, we just needed Scott to record his tracks and we needed to finish my guitar solos. ‘Twist Of Fate’ and ‘Alone’ weren’t supposed to be on that original release, but we “resurrected” them because they turned out to be pretty cool.

Ion Vein has moved from a progressive metal band into a more straightforward heavy metal approach. Do you agree and if so, what’s the reason for this evolution?
It was definitely a natural progression. If you listen to the records side by side objectively, you will hear the natural progression from ‘Beyond Tomorrow’, which was very much in the vein of Fates Warning, via the darker, heavier ‘Reigning Memories’ to the new one ‘Ion Vein’, which is again a lot heavier. Maybe it all had to do with the anger and frustration of things not developing according to plan or the music business, but we spend a lot of time beating on these songs and as a result the progressive elements were taken out. I like where the band’s at right now, this seems to be a very natural place to be for us.

Why did you decide to name the album plain and simple ‘Ion Vein’?
We toyed with ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Resurrection’ and all the cool names that were already been taken. To me it felt like we were starting over right now, it was the rebirth of Ion Vein. It all finally came together , it’s a starting point for phase two of the band so therefore we decided to go for the ‘Ion Vein’ album title.

On ‘Ion Vein’ the band still consists of three people and Brian Gordon is taking care of the bass parts, who was also featured on ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ from 1999 already. What’s the exact situation concerning the Ion Vein bass player spot right now? Is Rob Such now a permanent member?
That’s a good question…Brian played on all the records and joined the band in 1997. He stepped away for a while to go and play with David Shankle but remained a very important part of the Ion Vein family. Rob is a very good friend and has been filling in for Brian for the live shows and has been part of the band as well. Rob’s in the band right now, I must playing with Brian though so we kind of see what will happen…

How were the first reactions to the new album, both from the press as well as the audience?
Overall it’s been very strong. Of course we haven’t just gotten perfect reviews and some of our old fans are wondering what happened to the “old” Ion Vein, but in general everybody believes that it’s our strongest record to date and that it is the next step in the evolution of the band and I’m very happy to hear that.

Which song on the album does represent Ion Vein best in your opinion and why?
Oh..that’s a tough question! I’ll answer it two-ways: for the old fans who are looking for a song to bridge the gap between the first two albums and this album, I think ‘Alone’ would be that track, because it still has more of the progressive elements that were featured on the first two records, but it also introduces the heaviness of the new album. As far as a song that really exemplifies Ion Vein right now, I would go for ‘Anger Inside’, because of the heavy riffs, the tempo shifting and it has somewhat of an anthem value as well.

Quite coincidentally, or maybe not, you mention both tracks that you released videos for (a lyrical video for ‘Anger Inside’ and an official picture video for ‘Alone’). What’s the importance of videos nowadays and why these two in particular?
The answer to the previous question was exactly why we chose those two songs. Videos are still very important, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough live footage to do a live-type video so we had to do a picture video. For a possible next video we will do a live-performance video or a studio-type video where you can really see the band “in action”.

Doing a lyrical video is quite attractive because of its low cost, but then you really have to “tell” something with your lyrics. What are typical themes that you like to write about and do you want to express a certain message in your songs?
Absolutely, there’s always a positive message to carry yourself through difficult times. The lyrical themes are always related to life experiences, as I draw my greatest influences from day to day things. Things that I experience myself or things that I see happening with friends, but the overwhelming theme is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. People look to music in dark times to help them through those times and I hope our lyrics can help people get through difficult times.

band image

Who’s responsible for the album cover and what do you try to express with it?
Scott Jackson was responsible for the cover and he really did a fantastic job. The album cover is so important and we’re really trying to tell a story with it. You have the phoenix on there, which represents the rebirth of the band. The book with the flipping pages is representing the different chapters in your life, while the man and the skull represent the good and the bad and the struggles of life. The corridor that’s very faint in the background is like going through the tunnel of life and trying to come through on the good side of things. So there’s definitely a lot going on there…

The album was released on Mortal Music again. Why did you decide to continue your working relationship with them and how does the deal with them look like? Do you have an option for more albums in future?
It’s more of a licensing deal that we have with them. Mortal Music is a good friend of ours, because it’s Rob Such’s thing. They’ve got a good distribution and I know I can trust Rob, so therefore we decided to continue the relationship. We’ll see how things go with this one and we’ll decide on the next release how we will proceed.

What are your expectations from the new album? When will it be a success for you?
It will be a success when there’s a copy in every home of the planet..haha…To me the fact that it was released was the first success. It’s been a struggle and it has been eleven years since ‘Reigning Memories’, which probably explains the heaviness of the album. So goal number one was met. Goal number two was to give it a chance in Europe and we were able to do that via CMM. The sales are quite okay but we need to tour so the next goal with this album is to finally get us to Europe for a decent tour.

How’s the situation in the US, are you able to do some shows there?
We could put together a show at any time and play, but the challenge is to effectively plan it and to make it profitable as Scott lives in New York and I’m in Chicago. With holiday season coming up we have decided to push thing back a little to the spring time, say March and April, to try and do a proper release show and put together a small tour.

The 20th year anniversary is coming up. Any special plans concerning this feat?
I would like to get the guys from Latent Fury, which transformed into Ion Vein back in 1995, to come out and play with us for this special event. I would also like to get the older Ion Vein line-up’s together so that we can leap through the history of Ion Vein by playing a few songs of each album and have a few more surprises. If possible I would also like to record this for a possible DVD-release, so that the Europeans will have a nice package if we wouldn’t be able to come over to Europe ourselves.

Competition is fierce in the metal music industry, but why should people choose to purchase the Ion Vein album? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
The choices that you have as a music fan are so overwhelming nowadays that it’s indeed very difficult to stand out. I can just say that Ion Vein are doing everything ourselves, we write every note, we play every note from the heart, we care about the songs and the fans and we’re just a true, hard-working band. We’re trying to do it our way and live the dream on our terms. I hope people can respect that when they make the decision to buy a record.

The album material was already written some years ago, so have you have written and/or recorded or do you have more material after that? What do you have available in the Ion Vein vaults?
The other thing that I have on my mind beside the 20th anniversary thing is to quickly follow up with some kind of new release again, maybe a four- or five song EP. There’s so much material and great ideas from over the years that we can rework, record and release and combine it with the new, fresh ideas that we have. The direction will continue on from where the new record is, with maybe a bit more flavorings from the past.

What are your plans for the next six to twelve months? What can we expect from Ion Vein in near future?
We definitely have to play live! If anything that can help springboard more opportunities and more awareness and to really help the album pick up some steam. Playing live is therefore definitely our number one priority together with planning our 20th anniversary. The ideal situation would be that we prepare for this 20th anniversary show and that we can go on tour immediately thereafter. Next to that I need to start up preparations for a possible new release that we’ve just spoken about.

You’ve been active in the scene for quite some time now, what have been your personal highlights and lowpoints so far during all those years?
Lot of great highlights: Powermad festival in Baltimore in 1998 where the fans really went nuts, next playing with great bands like Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Testament, Symphony X and Iced Earth to name just a few, Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles festival in 2003 was a blast, promoting the Chicago Powerfest has been a great highlight as well, playing the Progpower Fest back in 2001 and so on. On the lowpoint side: playing shows in front of just a few people which is not really motivating, parting ways with our previous singer Russ in 2006 while he was (and still is) my best friend, the struggle to recover from that. But eight years later we’re back stronger than ever!

What is the more long-term ambition and plans that you have with Ion Vein? To what level do you think that you can bring the band?
I would be happy if we could play in front of a thousand people on a regular basis. This might seem a bit of a lofty or maybe even insane goal, but it we could go on the road as a headliner and play to let’s say five hundred or a thousand people then I think we’ve reached the level that this band is capable of.

Okay Chris, thanks for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would still like to mention to our readers?
No, I think you’ve covered it well. I would just like to say to your readers that I appreciate every person who takes the time for us. We’re grateful for that, we’re grateful to be able to make records that people want to hear. Hopefully Ion Vein will be able to grow a bit because of that.

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