First of all, hails and congratulations on your new band Heavens Decay and you debut album, ‘The Great Void Of Mystery’. The album has been released now for a while. Are you still satisfied with the result, and satisfied with the reactions on it so far?
Thank you! Yes, we are very satisfied with the result, even though we had some bumps on the road. We had some problems with the drums, for example, but we didn’t get discouraged and kept pushing until we got the result we wanted. The reactions have been quite positive so far, and to be honest I had not expected that. I mean, this is the first album by a project band and I had expected a lot less.
You are mainly known for your work in the extremer regions of metal. Of course with Question Of Madness you had already proved to be able to make heavy metal as well, although that band is more doomy and more progressive. Heavens Decay again shows a different side of you as a musician, and here you have taken a more traditional approach. Can you explain the choice for making a traditional heavy metal album?
There is no trick or plan at hand here. I got into music via the NWOBHM and 80s rock and heavy metal. So it’s a part of me. What I wanted do with Heavens Decay is to show that a musician still can play good and pure heavy metal without combining it with other style in order to be original. Heavens Decay was not meant to be original, but still I think it sounds fresh, and moreover it can make you bang your head with a magic touch.
As I mentioned in my review, the music on ‘The Great Void Of Mystery’ is a blend of NWOBHM and traditional US heavy metal with a huge epic load. The atmosphere reminds of the ‘Seventh Son…’ era of Iron Maiden and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, along with the likes of Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Jag Panzer, but also (old) Grave Digger. In how far can you agree on this?
Well yeah, especially Maiden and Sabbath are two of my favourite bands of all times. They were the reasons I started playing metal in the first place and change my life forever. I’m not sure about Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, though. But if you say so…. I like those bands, too and there is a chance they also left a mark on my playing, but not as noticeable as Maiden and Sabbath.
Can you tell us a bit about your influences and how you wanted to reflect them in Heavens Decay and what you had in mind for the direction of Heavens Decay? And also, in how far do you think you have achieved that on this album?
I have a wide range of bands and guitarists that I’m influenced by, but the main ones are Tony Iommi, Adrian Smith, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. My goal in creating music is trying not to limit my sound, and to do an as good as possible job blending my sound with the styles I enjoy the most. Only then can you will discover interesting things in your sound. What I wanted and want for Heavens Decay is serious lyrics, serious music and professionalism, so hard work. And in how far I have achieved that on ‘The Great Void...’? I think for this album about 80%. The next album will be better on every matter.
In how far is writing and creating a heavy metal record different than working on a death metal album?
For me it was more difficult to create this one. It is more difficult to play heavy metal; the guitar sound has less gain in comparison with extremer forms of metal, so you can hear every mistake. I had to get used to rehearsing with this sound, and also to pace down or to play with a metronome, because I’m not used to it. I’m used to playing fast and without any metronome, but with this type of music you have to be more precise, and you can’t afford to make any mistakes during the clean parts. Also creating the right mood and atmosphere was a lot more different.
When we look at the current underground heavy metal scene and the popularity of traditional and epic heavy metal, the circumstances are still fruitful for a band like Heavens Decay. Of course there are also mindless people out there who might criticize the band and the album by claiming you have “jumped on the bandwagon”…
I always say do whatever you think is right for you and what you feel fine with it. What people sometimes don't understand is that musicians sometimes need to explore their instruments more and do something different in order to find satisfaction in what they do, otherwise you will get stuck. For me, I sometimes need to take a break from all those fast and complicated riffs and do something else that might also not easy, but different. And in the end I just feel complete again.
You have been in the business for many years now and needless to say that the scene in general has changed a lot in the past decades. How do you look at the extreme metal scene, the heavy metal scene and the metal scene in general nowadays, compared to when you started your career in metal?
Well, I can’t answer this one correctly, because I'm living in my own little world and I don't have that much contact with the "scene" these days. But what can I tell you is the scene is being very much distorted nowadays. And what I mean is the feeling is not the same anymore. Nowadays the kids can get everything, from music and merchandise to concert tickets, by just a few clicks online. Back in the day we had to wait for hours and hours in line for concert tickets, and when we wanted a demo or a t-shirt from a band far away, it took months doing back and forth with hand-written letters and wait for it for months to arrive. So when you finally got it, you couldn’t be happier, and seeing the effort you had to put into everything, you appreciated it a lot more. That was everything and I’d die for it. The elderly like myself will know what I'm talking about, haha. Kids today don’t know that feeling and as everything comes easy, they don’t value it as much as they should.
Along with yourself the band consists of Oscar Clorio, who is also mostly known for extremer types of metal, and Nick Hernandez, who comes from the doom corner. Can you tell a bit about your choice for these gentlemen?
I chose for Oscar because we had worked before and I know what is capable of. He’s a great musician and also a great songwriter. Plus, he is very much into the idea of playing heavy metal. As for Nick, I wanted a voice like Paul Di'anno’s; aggressive but clean at the same time, and Nick has exactly that what I was looking for. I saw him play with his band Stone Magnum many times, and I knew het was the guy I needed for Heavens Decay. And he turned out to be even better than I expected.
Oscar lives in Mexico City, while you and Nick are based in Chicago. Of course the digital highways have made the world a lot smaller and make it possible for people to create art while living far apart. But in how far is that a problem or difficulty for the band in general?
That is a real problem indeed! The thing is we are not able to practice and make the music tighter, more elaborated and more interesting. In the current situation I'm doing the main riffs and the main ideas, but when you work together more ideas come up and you can change and adapt the songs in order to get the best result; that is the way it should be.
From what I’ve understood you are already working on the follow-up to ‘The Great Void Of Mystery? Does that mean that Heavens Decay is a full-fledged band and not just another project?
It started as a project but now I want it to be a serious band. You know, I just love to play and to be creative. When I left The Chasm I was constantly playing guitar and gathering ideas, putting riff after riff on the side. But at a certain moment I had so much material that I started to transform the ideas into songs, and before I knew it I had about thirty songs ready. It would have been a shame to let the stuff for what it was. That’s when I decided to form Heavens Decay; first as a project to release the songs, but now I want it to be something more serious and more professional. And I really don’t care what people think, as long as I'm satisfied with what I do.
I understand that for logistic reasons, and also your involvements in other bands will make it difficult for Heavens Decay to organize a tour or perform live in general. But are there any plans to take the band on stage someday? Maybe even across Europe?
Well, I have a just had a kidney transplant recently, which is also one of the reasons that the guys and I haven’t gotten together for rehearing and in order to get as tight as possible. But when I’m back on my feet and feel 100% again, you can bet that I will be trying to get the band anywhere or play live. That’s for sure.
And finally, I must say that I’m also quite fond of Shub Niggurath (and especially ‘The Kinglike Celebration’), so when can we expect a new album from that band?
Ufff! That is long gone, my brother! A deadly call from the stars was the last pull-off, and there is no turning back. Arturo (aka Transcosmic Blasphemizer, Shub Niggurath vocalist – Nima) had a project called Naxyr, but I don’t know if he is still working on it or not.
Well then, I guess we can call it a day for now. Unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
Thank you and Lords Of Metal for this interview; we really appreciate your support! And to the fans: hang in there for a little while and hopefully will see us live sometime this year. Long Live to Heavy Metal!