In April 2009 Stonecast released its first album ‘Inherited Hell’ and it was released through Underground Symphony. It looked like you had to send the promotional copies around yourselves. What the hell is that about?
Franck: We surely did some promotional work by ourselves back then. Underground Symphony fulfilled its duty around its network, and we worked around ours. Both were complementary. They never told us to do that, they let us feel free to do it. If my memory serves right, we sent the album to the same structures that took notice of us when we were still doing demos (like four years before ‘Inherited Hell’). We wanted to have our name and music out there more than what Underground Symphony could offer. As an unknown band, that was the right move to do. Never been accused of being lazy.
At the moment you are with Pitch Black Records. How are you feeling with this label?
Franck: Great, in total confidence. Pitch Black Records is a dynamic young label with whom we share many values. We are a hard-working band with a passion, and so are they, as a label. Joining their roster is obviously a big step forward for us, in terms of promotion, distribution, marketing and overall management. I have been following their way of working for quite a while before reaching out. At some point you have to ask yourself why, and how, you would like to work with ‘such and such’ label. Thankfully, we were on the same page with Pitch Black Records and they came with an offer that fulfilled our wishes for the new album. Phivos (label manager) is a great person to work with and we are very satisfied of all he did so far. We can communicate on a daily basis, which I appreciate a lot. It is like night and day from our previous experience.
In our review of ‘Inherited Hell’ my former colleague Wilmar said: “Although everything has been recorded crisp and clear and the guitar sound is to die for, the mix has been done by a baboon who was pushing buttons at random.” I think the mix is much improved on ‘Heroïkos’ opposed to the mix on ‘Inherited Hell’. Do you share the criticism on the mix on ‘Inherited Hell’ and is it something you looked after really careful with ‘Heroïkos’?
Franck: Well, thank you for acknowledging the improvement on Heroïkos and yes, the mixing part was a matter of concern within the band, way before we entered the studio this time. In all fairness, Wilmar nailed it right, except for the baboon part. The explosive production on ‘Inherited Hell’ was an artistic direction that could have worked better, had the mix not been so messy. I can tell you how much we learned from our inexperience and stubbornness from back then. We declined offers that came from labels that wanted to remix the album. Besides, ‘Inherited Hell’ was made with a different line-up (we split in December 2009). In both regards, we take full responsibility of our behaviour to this day.
Is that one of the reasons to work with Mariusz Pietka of MP Studio?
‘Cazu’: Yes, we did a pretty good job by ourselves for the studio sessions, but we definitely needed to step higher for the mix. We got the opportunity to work with Mariusz and he really brought us to another level.
Franck: And the reviews are here to testify. As much as we have been criticised towards the mix of ‘Inherited Hell’, we are getting praises for ‘Heroïkos’. Which is pretty cool, we would not complain at all. Mariusz’s work is well-known amongst metal circles, most notably with Crystal Viper, Jack Starr and recently Sabaton (‘40:1’ single, red). We have to give credit to Bart Gabriel for that opportunity. He hooked us up with Mariusz, and everything went great.
For ‘Heroïkos’ you also approached ‘Rhino’ of Manowar-fame for the drum duties. What made you choose ‘Rhino’?
‘Cazu’: If God would have told us: “Hey guys, I can give you the drummer of your choice, among every drummer of the universe” we would have chosen ‘Rhino’!! Man we just think that ‘The Triumph Of Steel’ is the most badass, loudest and ultimate heavy metal masterpiece of all heavy metal history. Rhino was part of it, and our child hearts were marked for life.
Franck: The night we both started the band, we made it clear to ourselves that we had to find someone heavily influenced by Rhino. Because we were far from thinking that we would have him on one of our records someday. Until we had the right level of playing. Until we had the right chemistry within the band. Until we had the right songs. Until we just asked him smiles.
What was it like working with a man who has that much experience in the business as ‘Rhino’ has?
Franck: It was the easiest thing in the world. ‘Rhino’ was so enthusiastic about the project! We were stunned and grateful in the meantime. He put his experience, actually I shall say expertise, not only for the benefit of the songs, but for the whole album. He balanced and adjusted his performance for the greater good of ‘Heroïkos’. We are far from the ‘double-bass caveman’ approach like some would think he would do. Those who think that are wrong. ‘Rhino’ felt the songs!!! That is something technique cannot teach. We owe him a lot. You know, creatively, his interpretation led us to rewrite many parts for the better. It was such a positive vibe. We have been struggling with drummers in our area for so long. The day we decided to stop losing our time bothering, and concentrate only on developing our own brand of heavy metal, was basically the day we started writing ‘Heroïkos’. The first song that came out was ‘Of Fire and Ice’, and we wondered how great it would be if ‘Rhino’ was playing it. Just like when we started the band, we found ourselves back. The rest is history.
So, I reckon it is safe to say Manowar is an influence on Stonecasts music. But listening to ‘Heroïkos’ I would say there are much more influences to it, also from different genres. Can you name a couple of those influences?
‘Cazu’: We are proud to claim our influence from Manowar, but as you noticed, we are open to a large bunch of influences. Apart from an obvious and strong heavy metal basis, we enjoy listening to lots of different kind of music, and each member of the band brings the best of his musical taste. They go from progressive music to Viking and black metal, but the main purpose is about epic. We draw our inspiration from every declination of the epic side in every style of music. That is why we are receptive and thereby influenced, among others, from Vangelis tremendous work or The Saint Seyia soundtracks, to bands like Amon Amarth or Bathory. We are music lovers above all, and we do not close our mind to any kind of music.
So, a name like ‘Heroïkos’ makes me thing the theme of the album is Greek mythology. Am I right?
‘Cazu’: Half right brother! Of course the name ‘Heroïkos’ is Greek and we do think that the Greek mythology is one of the most powerful things to write about, but we did not settle for this one only. Every song deals with an epic story, mythological or sometimes just personal in which the listener can identify himself. Somehow, we do believe that there is a ‘Heroïkos’ inside every one of us.
Franck: Epic is the key of the record. From the cover to the songs, from the lyrics to the sounds, everything oozes epicness. You can feel that huge Mediterranean vibe all along the album. That is the way we wanted it. We wrote about myths and historic facts close to us. We hail from Marseille, a city that is 26 centuries old which was built by the Phoceans. We wrote our songs around Hesiode’s book, ‘The Five Ages Of Men’. Each one relates more or less to a specific age. Those are stone, silver, gold, men-god, brass. In the final track, ‘Savage Princes’, we bring the idea of a sixth age, that has yet to come. In a song like ‘The Barbaric Rhyme’ we pay tribute to King Leonidas and the three hundred Spartans in the Thermopyles battle. ‘Gods of Dust’ is a song that tells about the rise of Spartacus, before the Serviles war. We take side with those who stand and stood against oppression, no matter the era or the situation. As ‘Cazu’ told you, there is an ‘Heroïkos’ inside each of us, that is our belief. In that regard, this is a manifest in the name of freedom and willpower.
Will you have a drummer for an upcoming tour or will there be a permanent drummer in the band in the future?
‘Cazu’: Actually, we have not decided yet. The band does well under this formula, so we do not want to change anything. We have some ideas about the live show but it is too early to tell you more.
Franck: Besides, we have already been through the worst case scenario. Out of the blue, we have been contacted to participate at the Sonisphere festival in 2011. Obviously, we were without a drummer at the time. We had a week to find someone, teach him the songs, etcetera. This was truly a state of emergency, but we stepped up to the task, found someone and played the gig. So I am pretty confident about the future laughs.
I mentioned an upcoming tour in the last question, but is there actually going to be on? And where will we be able to see you?
‘Cazu’: We are currently working on the ‘Heroïkos’ European tour 2014. Some dates are already confirmed, we will announce them soon, and we are still seeking for more dates. To anyone interested feel free to get in touch. We could not tour for ‘Inherited Hell’, because of those line-up matters. So this time we just want to take the stage as much as possible.
Franck: Our songs are carved for a live performance, we cannot wait to storm the roads and share our fire with our brothers and sister of metal!
Well, that is about it for me. If there is anything you would like to add, this is your change!
Franck: Thank you, Marcel and the Lords Of Metal team for granting us this interview. Thanks to your readers that are already supporting our music, or will discover it with the same excitement we had creating it. Daughters and sons of iron, steel and heavy metal from Holland we hail you!!! Stand, stand Heroïkos!!!