I reviewed your latest album 'Songs From The Lost' for our December issue and I must say that I was quite surprised, the album has some great tracks. Now Icarus Witch is not such a well-known band yet, so could you introduce the band to our readers?
Icarus Witch is a four-piece traditional melodic metal band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We formed in 2004 and have since released an EP called 'Roses On White Lace' and two full length albums, 'Capture The Magic' & our current release, 'Songs For The Lost'. The band was created mainly because, as fans of classic metal, we were really disappointed with the way the metal scene had gone downhill and felt like there wasn't really enough new bands out there carrying on the tradition of old school heavy metal that we loved while growing up. We wanted to tap into that style of late seventies / early eighties heavy rock - when those heroes were at their prime, firing on all cylinders and create or at least bolster a new movement, a new respect & hopefully resurgence in the U.S. We found a few other bands along the way who share the vision and since that time it seems more young people are coming to respect this form of music, not as a novelty, but as a sincere, vital force that doesn't rely on trends, major labels or hipsters to validate it. It seemed like a noble cause at the time. Worst case scenario, we'd get into the studio and make some cool music to satisfy ourselves. Best case scenario, we connect with thousands of others around the globe who feel the same sense of disconnect from the way metal music has devolved since peaking in the mid eighties. Fortunately, we're mostly finding that second scenario, but it's a daily struggle to defend the faith these days. I guess this fight is what true metal is supposed to be about though, right?
Icarus Witch could be described as a heavy metal band. Which bands of the same genre have influenced you all the most?
Each of us of course have some favorite bands that we love more than the others, but in terms of the groups that all of us agree on and enjoy, I'd say the biggest ones would be Sabbath, Priest, Dio, Maiden, Queensryche, Rainbow, Purple, Yngwie, Scorpions, KISS, Uriah Heep, Dokken, old Fates Warning, Accept, W.A.S.P., Whitesnake, Krokus, Van Halen early Def Leppard, early Motley Crue, U.F.O. & AC/DC. Those are some of the bands that any of us can crank in the van on the way to the show without someone groaning from the back seat! [laughs]. Almost all metal bands today still like most of those groups I mentioned but the difference is, they'll listen to and enjoy that music, then go out and play something that sounds completely different & harsh. That makes little sense to me. So we figure, why not just continue writing & playing in the style that gives us the most pleasure. It seems simple enough to me.
Are there also bands from a different musical niche been of influence on the way you write you music and lyrics?
Oh, absolutely, I'm a musician first, then a metal head. I've always been drawn to the darker side of music and the early British goth movement, bands like The Cure, The Cult, Sisters Of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephlim & Joy Division. Brings you to a bleak place of sorrow without bashing you over the skull. More of an hypnotic, late night, candlelight vibe. But on the other end, I've got a total respect for the mainstream classic arena rock bands who have written songs that have been played on the radio every day for the past thirty years. Bands like Journey, Zeppelin, Bad Company, Fleetwood Mac, and Queen...I wouldn't say lyrically that we tap into these genres as much because words are such a personal thing, but when arranging songs, you could do worse than reference Pink Floyd or Aerosmith. I mean these are bands that have perfected the art of song craft, structures, dynamics & such. Sometimes I get burnt out on rock and tend to listen to a lot of classical, jazz & ethereal sounds capes to clear my head & rethink my own instrument. Matthew listens to a lot of vintage psychedelic rock, Quinn also likes more of the modern stoner rock & black metal and Chris is into prog & AOR, so I think when you take everyone's side interests and then factor in the aforementioned bands that we're all fans of, you begin to get the big picture of why Icarus Witch sounds like it does. An odd hybrid of arena rock & dark underground with slightly retro-progressive edge. Like 'hopeful doom'. [laughs] A total paradox, but somehow it works.
Compared with your previous releases, the new CD has shown quite some progress, what were the differences in creating this album compared to the previous one?
'Roses On White Lace' was pretty much slapped together in a matter of weeks as a demo and it certainly has more of that raw, immediate feel. 'Capture The Magic' was written over the course of a very cold winter with our original guitarist Steve, Matthew & myself hashing out ideas & concepts of what we felt a metal album should sound like. Sometimes we nailed it, other times... The thing to realize is that at that point, we still didn't have a drummer so we were writing on drum machine and using our friend JC Dwyer from Pro-Pain as a session player in the studio. So while the album is very pro & musically slick, I still didn't feel we were a proper band yet. I mean, we hadn't even played a show yet due to several lineup shifts from the onset. But we grew up real fast as a band. As soon as 'Capture' was done we finally found a suitable drummer and began playing shows. Of course when you finally take the show on the road, you get tighter, you gain actual chemistry, you feedback on what an audience reacts to and make adjustments to certain things. Also we added another guitarist to the mix for the writing of 'Song For The Lost'. While Steve was very melodic, articulate and often more progressive, I think Quinn added a needed dose of vibe & attitude. He's a very soulful player and a real rocker. So by the time the sessions for 'Songs For The Lost' officially started, we had more experience, more idea makers and the benefit of a couple years as a band under our belt.
I hear many different bands back on this new CD, from old Queensrÿche influences to typical Iron Maiden riffs. It seems that you are still trying to find a musical identity of your own…
I guarantee that early on, Maiden heard people say "oh, you sound like Priest" and Queensryche definitely heard critics say, "you guys sound like Maiden" Hell, I remember the first time I heard Def Leppard & Cinderella as a kid, I thought both bands were new AC/DC! But now that I've had time to really absorb those bands & get to know the early albums, I don't think they sound so similar. It's where you take those influences as your career develops. In our defense, it's not intentional. It's not like we listen to a Maiden song & say..."what would Steve Harris do here?" That influence just comes from being metal heads growing up listening to that classic stuff for so long, especially when we were learning our instruments. Metal, as a genre is nearly 4 decades old, so by this time, there's nothing new under the sun. It's a double edged sword, though because if you go out of your way to be too different, you're probably straying from the classic mold that we really formed the band in the spirit of. We try to balance tradition with unique inspiration. If you really put on your headphones and listen to songs like 'Smoke & Mirrors' or 'Afterlife' I personally don't think they sound like anyone else. I think this album is a huge step forward and will really please fans of true metal, but our next one will be the true coming of age record in our career.
On the new album you covered the Def Leppard track 'Mirror Mirror'. Why did you choose this particular Def Leppard track?
We were asked to contribute to a Def Leppard tribute album which was also staring members from Motley Crue, Ratt, Quiet Riot & bands of that stature, so we were like the new blood. Most of the hits like 'Photograph' or 'Bringing On The Heartbreak' had already been spoken for, which suited us fine, because although we are fans of those first three Leppard records, it's not like Icarus Witch is the type of band to really sing some 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' [laughs]. Lyrics are a big concern for our singer when we choose a cover song to add to our set. 'Mirror Mirror' was a bit closer to where we were coming from in attitude, still something of a mystic edge, but basically a great, melodic rocker with balls & style. So we started tracking it and then for whatever reason, the label decided to put the tribute on hold. Ok, so now, we've got some basic tracks laid down & in the can, we just put it aside & moved on to our original music for 'Songs For The Lost'. Later in the writing of the album, we felt like we were still missing something and our American label really is big on including cover songs and special guests so they have additional promotional avenues for their newer bands, like us. We got a lot of mileage out of our cover of 'S.A.T.O.' from 'Capture The Magic', as that ended up on an Ozzy tribute, compilations & even George Lynch's 'Lost Anthology' album because he played lead guitar on it! So we decided amongst ourselves that it made sense to resurrect & include our version of 'Mirror Mirror' which would have otherwise just ended up as a forgotten bonus track somewhere.
You got singer Joe Lynn Turner to do partially the vocals for this song. Why did you wanted him for the job and how did you get in touch with him?
Icarus Witch has occupied this strange niche in today's music scene that doesn't seem to get enough attention, at least here in America. Most metal heads here aren't familiar with the AOR scene & how it relates to the history of metal. In my opinion, heavy metal's best era was a time when bands like Rainbow, Triumph, Zebra & Rush all coexisted alongside the heavier, darker bands. There was more emphasis on melody, class & hook-oriented songwriting. Over the years metal got away from that and became more about being extreme, faster, more offensive, more angry. Most of the time when I listen to music, I don't want to be assaulted [laughs]. I like the music to rock and have great energy, but at the same time, I don't always want to feel like "Alright motherfuckers, who wants to fight?" You know? I like to think that Icarus Witch still maintains our sincere & sinister occult edge because that is who we are as, but we like to temper our metal with a bit more mystique, the way bands like Ryche did, without getting to proggy or boring to your non-musician listeners. Joe Lynn Turner represents those elements and really gave classic metal a sense of style with his contributions to Rainbow, Yngwie & Deep Purple. Even though he's a Jersey guy, he's got that European flair. Great soul & melody in each note with a distinct commercial appeal yet still somehow a darker, almost gothic edge. He seemed like the perfect fit for this song and this album. Fortunately our manager was friends with him and he had also done some work for Cleopatra Records in the past, so we basically just dialed him up & invited him. I think he really appreciated where we were coming from and that torch we still carry for hard rock's glory days. To me it was the perfect blend - a great way to get some older, hard to reach rock fans to notice us, and dare I say, some of the younger kids that are into us to then go and discover the masterful catalog of Mr. Turner.
Will you work on future projects with him also? I must admit it has worked out fine with 'Mirror Mirror'.
I don't know about recording, but we have stayed in contact & he's become both a friend & a mentor to me. We realized we had some very spiritual ties as well, and I think we definitely be playing some shows together this year which we're very excited about.
You have a deal with Cruz Del Sur label from Italy for European activities, this new record is the first one after signing the deal, so how did it working out so far, are you satisfied about them?
So far I'm very satisfied. I think the main man there, Enrico, is the real deal. A true metal head that approaches his label with a strong sense of passion. He's got a very realistic outlook on the industry but still does things his own way and enters into situations with optimism. A lot of the bigger labels are struggling and scaling back, but Cruz seems to be a lean machine already that makes the most of every opportunity. That is a very good fit with where Icarus Witch is as a band.
Can we expect to see you somewhere on tour in Europe?
Yes, sooner or later. If it were up to us, we'd be there right now touring but as you know, the cost to travel these days is pretty outrageous. Just to get the band on your soil is close to $5000 and then the cost of living on the road. We're very anxious to play as many cities as possible. Hopefully, 'Songs For The Lost' will create enough of a stir in Europe to get the promoters, managers & festivals on board. I've heard a few things from our manager about some opportunities, and we did get a lot of interest from some European agencies like Dragonight, but so far everything is in the talk stage. So if any bookers out there are reading this, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! [laughs].
Are there any special things coming up in the near future?
Yes, actually in the same email that Cruz Del Sur told me about this interview, they mentioned that we've got an offer to release 'Songs For The Lost' on vinyl! To me that is a lifelong ambition realized. CDs & MP3s are fine, but I've always wanted to have an actual album and when I designed the artwork & song order for 'Songs For The Lost', I had 12" LP in my mind the whole time. At the moment, we're writing & recording new music for the next album so that we will be able to work the next round of songs into our set before we hit the studio and hopefully get a new album out without another two year gap that elapsed between 'Capture The Magic' & 'Songs For The Lost'. Also we're working on a video for the song 'The Sky Is Falling' and continuing to amass show footage & behind the scenes shenanigans for an eventual DVD release. But I wouldn't say that is near future. The next thing on our priority list is to get back on the road & tour around North America while writing & recording in between. We've got a big Valentines concert next month with Winger, then a headlining New York City show and in the summer we're a featured act on the TMT Open Air Festival in New York which also features Flotsam & Jetsam, Forbidden, Chris Caffery & more. So now we're starting to fill in our touring schedule for the spring and recording the new album in between shows. Hopefully, this way we won't get burnt out from the studio or the road and can keep both aspects fresh & fun.
And if there's anything left unmentioned, please don't hesitate to share it…
I think that pretty much covers it for now. I definitely encourage your readers to stop by icaruswitch.com & myspace.com/icaruswitch to check out some of our music & if you like what you hear, buy it from us or a legitimate source so that we can afford to continue on making more traditional dark metal for you in the future and hopefully bring the Witch back over to Europe for some more great festivals. Support the underground!