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The Belgian female fronted power metal band Nightqueen has already released two full-length albums in the past, but that didn’t bring the band the success which they might have deserves on the basis of their song material. With an almost complete new line-up they’re now doing the preparations for the recording of their third album. Lords Of Metal spoke with founding member and guitar player Rex Zeco and new female singer Hellen Heart about the past, present and future of the band.

By: Sjak | Archive under heavy / power metal

band imageRex, can you tell me how Nightqueen was founded and what the intention was that you had with the band back then?
Rex: In 2004 I just came out of an ugly divorce and as a result of that I had to limit my activities for my healthcare company. Because of that I had plenty of time and my girlfriend at that time, which is currently my wife, asked me what all those guitars were doing at the wall. I told her that they were just for decoration purposes as I wasn’t active in a band anymore and just for the sake of fun we started up a band together, which only rehearsed and did some cover work. My wife was singing in the band, but because of back problems she had to quit. We got a new singer that wanted to start gigging with the band, but I wasn’t really into that anymore. Spooky, the ex-bass player of Killer, pushed me a bit to do a performance in a local bar in Genk called Highway. Although it was just for fun, a lot of people approached me to tell me that I should continue with the band. The band members at that time didn’t feel like doing that and we got other people in. I had written a song back then called ‘Queen Of The Night’ and that song provided us with our name Nightqueen. In 2006 we really started with doing live shows. Later on we had a lot of line-up issues but much to my surprise we survived out all them and we got a solid line-up with Keely Larreina as lead singer. We recorded a demo and a little less than four weeks later Massacre Records showed interest and things started to take off.

Despite of the fact that you started out as a cover band, at some time you felt the urge to write your own material. Why?
Rex: Before Nightqueen I had joined several existing bands where I just had to do what was told and I didn’t have any contribution of my own. I definitely felt the urge to make my own contribution, so when Nightqueen was formed I started writing my own material and songs like ‘Queen Of The Night’, ‘Lady Fantasy’ and ‘Nightfall’ were the first results of that.

So far you have released two full-length albums, your debut album ‘For Queen And Metal’ in 2012 and ‘Revolution’ in 2014. What did your debut album do for the band?
Rex: This album was not really successful because for our debut album we signed a bad deal with Massacre, where we only had to deliver the rough mix and they would take care of the mastering and the distribution of the album. The latest numbers that I heard was that the album sold about three thousand physical units, but I don’t have a clue about the number of digital units that were sold. It’s not really a surprise that it didn’t do too well, because the production was really poor. I have bought back the rights of that material, so we can always add a few of these “oldies” as bonus tracks on the third album.

After your second album ‘Revolution’ is got kind of quiet around the band. What have you been up to from the release of ‘Revolution’ until now?
Rex: Not much to be honest. Because of the bad experience with our debut album we had left Massacre Records and we got a deal with Wildgame Music, which had a lot of promising ideas for us. And since they were linked to VTM, we thought that this was going to be a big thing and we signed a deal. Four months later the album had to be finished and we got Jan Nemec to produce it. At that same time we had some issues with some band members and therefore I tried to postpone the requested deadline for the album release as we still had lots of work to do. That was unacceptable however and we had to stick to the original planning. We were not fully prepared to do these recordings and that’s something that you can hear on the album. On top of that the management of the band was also exclusively done by the record company and they failed to get us any shows to promote the record. Production-wise the album was far superior in comparison to the debut album, but nothing was done to properly promote the album and at that time I really thought about throwing in the towel. However, I decided to change the complete line-up and our current members Andy, Paddy, Adagio and Giovanni joined the band. This line-up really clicked and that gave me the motivation to continue.

So you had the right musical partners back then, but then your lead singer Keely quit the band. What happened?
Rex: Keely had an accident back then and was severely injured. As a result of that she wasn’t able to sing anymore, so we had to go and find a proper replacement for her. We had lots of auditions to find a suited lead singer, but at first we couldn’t really find somebody.

So Hellen, how did you get involved in Nightqueen then?
Hellen: Rex and I have a mutual acquaintance who was a real fan of my singing style and my voice. In the past I’ve done a lot of classic work, I did the Night Of The Proms and I did a tour with Rob de Nijs to name a few things, but I wasn’t really happy anymore with my management agency. As a result of that I was kind of fed up with the whole music business until I came in touch with Nightqueen.
Rex: I had told our mutual acquaintance that our lead singer had left the band and that we were looking for a replacement, but that it was very hard to find one. So she gave me a CD with a classic Beethoven adagio that Hellen had done and after listening to it in the car I immediately contacted Hellen. We invited her for an intake as we first wanted to know more about her personality and from that perspective it really clicked. Also musically she was the missing link and therefore we had found our new lead singer.

Hellen, although you have a classical background you joined a metal band. Why did you decide to do this?
Hellen: As a person I’m very curious and metal was one of the few genres that I hadn’t done before. I came to the rehearsal room to check out the music first to see whether it was something that I liked enough to join the band. When I listened to their song material I knew that I could do something with it, but then in my own style and not trying to imitate Keely. I wanted to introduce my classical background into the Nightqueen material and I think that works out great so far.

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The introduction of Hellen really was seen as a new start for the band I guess as you even thought about changing the band name?
Rex: I indeed thought about changing the band name, because the music that we bring now is more sophisticated and better than everything that we did before. Therefore I raised the idea to change our name but the majority of the band didn’t agree with that, so Nightqueen remained our band name.

What’s so different in the new material then compared to what you have done on your previous albums?
Rex: The technical capabilities of the current line-up are much higher than of any line-up before, so that provides us with more possibilities in the song material. Next to that we have a more critical attitude towards one another and we’re continuously challenging each other to become better. With Giovanni and Adagio in the band, the symphonic aspect of our music has become much better as well. And with Hellen as the lead singer we have more possibilities in the vocal department, which gives us lots of new opportunities. As a natural consequence the song material is much more varied than what we used to do in the past.

How productive have you been with this new line-up? How many new songs have you written so far?
Rex: in fact the song material for the new album was ready, but I’ve deleted some of the songs because I didn’t think that these were suited for Hellen. We are now working on the seventh new song that we have written for Hellen’s voice. We will work in the pace that will allow us to first finish a song properly before we’re going to start working on a next one. I have a couple of tracks written, but nobody of the band has heard these yet. We will first finish the song we’re working on before moving on with the next one.

How much tracks need to be completed before you start with the recordings of the third album?
Rex: we need about fifty to fifty-five minutes of music for our third album, and so far we have about thirty-five minutes of music finished. Since I have my own studio there is no real time pressure for the third album, which by the way will be called ‘Seduction’. We first want to make sure that the music is of such a high quality level that it’s ready to be recorded. Of course you have to be careful that you don’t keep working on the material endlessly and therefore I have planned to start with the recordings at the end of this year.

Of course you still need a record label to release the album or will you release it as an independent album?
Rex: we are trying to get the best record deal that we possibly can and we will definitely take the time so that we are sure that the label is best suited for us with respect to promotion, distribution and such.

You are part of a compilation album that will be released by the Brazilian label Imperative Music. How did you get connected to them?
Rex: the song ‘Screaming For Mercy’ was on our first demo and Gilson Arruda contacted us with the question if he could use this song for a compilation album that they were going to release. That compilation album was released about eight years ago. When I put the song ‘Revolution’ on the internet to introduce Hellen as our new lead singer, he contacted me again with the question whether we he could use that song for a new compilation album.

Besides the compilation album and the third Nightqueen album, what are other plans that you have for the near future?
Rex: we have the ambition now to grow Nightqueen to the next level. We need a good management to be able to get there, because we have to be able to focus on the music, while they take care of the business aspects.
Hellen: I don’t do anything besides Nightqueen anymore and am completely focused on this band now, as I have the feeling that we have the right line-up and the song material to be able to grow the band.

Are you going to produce your third album yourself or are to planning to work with an external producer again?
Rex: I think that I’ve proven to be a good producer with the new version of ‘Revolution’, but if a record company proposes to use an external producer, that’s also fine for me. The most important aspect is that the sound of our third album must be way better than our first two releases.

Okay Rex and Hellen, I hope that the third album will become the best Nightqueen so far and I’m really curious how things will sound. Is there anything that we didn’t cover during our chat that you want to mention to our readers?
Rex: Nightqueen is back with a stronger line-up than ever! Watch out for our third album!

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