By Carl Begai
Québec is known for offering up top tier metal talent to the world and having a forward thinking European-bent metal fanbase. Montréal’s Hasta La Muerte is one of the province’s latest spawn, having stomped into the spotlight earlier this year with a tongue-in-cheek / bum drum rap metal debut single, ‘Pour Anotha Shot’. The song, and particularly the video, garnered them instant attention both positive and “WTF?!” negative. A few months later they followed up with a darker, meaner, uglier tune ‘Step Up’, which has at the very least cemented them as not being flash in the pan. Beyond the music, however, almost nothing has been published about their roots and plans for world domination. Having tagged them as “Van Halen getting Ugly Kid Stuck Mojo-ed” when ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ first surfaced, I decided to dig up any available dirt for Hasta La Muerte’s growing fanbase.
“The band started out with myself, Manuel (Iradian / guitars) and Kev (Alexander / drums),” says guitarist David Evangelista, “all being friends in different bands and wanting to make something different together as a new band. Even though we grew up on old school heavy metal, we listen to all kinds of music, including hip-hop, rock, blues, or whatever in our free time. When we decided to work together, we worked off some demos that I had that were sort-of groovy and hip-hop-sounding, electronic, but also metal and really low-tuned on guitar. These were basic riffs and templates that would turn into ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ and ‘Step Up’. We wanted to be open to other genres of music as influences. So we collaborated to finish these ideas and making them into full instrumental songs, the three of us.”
“We put up a demo to recruit a vocalist, and we welcomed Robby (J. Fonts) who was primarily a rapper at the time. He did a great job mixing rap and heavy vocals on the demo which would eventually turn into our first single, ‘Pour Anotha Shot’. He had a similar open-minded vision too, so it worked out really well with the other material as well. But originally, before he appeared, it wasn’t necessarily set out to be rap-metal, it just sort of happened that way and we didn’t question it.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Swedish bashers Arch Enemy – who now boast Canadian and American talent within their ranks – kicked off October with the surprising news that their upcoming show at the Loud Park festival in Japan will feature guest appearances by former members Chris Amott (guitars) and Johan Liiva (vocals). At press time there had been no official explanation given as to what had spurred the upcoming reunion(s), but a quick call to Liiva offered a bit of insight as to how he became involved.
“I was invited by Arch Enemy to do this along with Chris as it’s two jubilees,” he begins. “Ten years for Loud Park and soon 20 years for Arch Enemy, so it was no hesitation there for me.”
Chris Amott left Arch Enemy for the second time in his career back in 2012 (the first time being 2005), presumably never to work with the band again. Given that his guitarist brother Michael calls the shots in Arch Enemy, one can assume that family ties played a significant role in bringing Chris back to the fold, however temporarily. Liiva, on the other hand, left under seemingly unpleasant circumstances after three cult favourite albums and was replaced by Angela Gossow, which ultimately turned Arch Enemy into a metal household name. Gossow was officially replaced by Alissa White-Gluz in 2014.
“I left the band the band in 2000, and of course we weren’t too eager to talk to each other in the first few years after that,” Liiva offers. “The first years after I left the band, the relationship was quite infected. I know that Michael didn’t feel too good about the situation. He wanted to go in another direction. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few years and I understand him now. It’s like a process and you have to think things through because Arch Enemy is his life and Michael knows what he wants. He made the band into what he wanted it to be, and for me it’s okay because the touring life was never my thing. I loved being in Arch Enemy but I much prefer the life I have now.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
While preparing for the release of the new Leaves’ Eyes album, King Of Kings, vocalist Liv Kristine announced some dates for what has become a traditional year end European solo tour. She then revealed that her former Theatre Of Tragedy bandmate, vocalist Raymond Rohonyi, would be joining her as a special guest for the duration of the tour, performing several songs from the band’s catalogue with her. A very surprising development considering the bad blood stirred up when Liv was fired from Theatre Of Tragedy in 2003 – she was replaced by Nell Sigland – and Rohonyi’s disappearance from the music scene when the band called it quits in 2010. The last time the duo shared the stage was 2002. During our interview for King Of Kings, Liv discussed how she reconnected with Rohonyi.
“Ray is back in Norway and moved to Trondheim recently with his Brazilian wife,” Liv explains. “At some point I tried to get in touch with him by phone, then via Facebook, and many weeks later he got back to me and said that he was back in Norway. We caught up a bit, and I asked him about rumours I heard that Theatre Of Tragedy would be having a reunion some time soon. Rumours that came with the Northern winds, let’s put it that way (laughs). I just wanted to know if I was in or not. Ray said that nobody had asked him so far about a reunion and wondered why I was asking. I told him I had a solo tour coming up and that I’d been playing Theatre Of Tragedy songs at a number of gigs, that the audience really seemed to love it, and then I asked him if he’d be my special guest. He was very happy about the offer and he said yes.”
“When The Sirens supported Nightwish in Trondheim recently I finally met up with Raymond again. We talked about everything, about the beginnings of Theatre Of Tragedy. It was good to clear the table and our history, because we were the ones who formed the band and came up with the whole Shakespearean thing. It was really good talking to him, and we parted in Trondheim on great terms. Alex (Krull / vocalist, husband) is happy everything is clear now and there are no hard feelings whatsoever. I’m really looking forward to the tour, and I think Raymond might be looking forward to it even more (laughs). He’s so excited.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Children Of Bodom vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman recently completed their official press junket for the band’s new album, I Worship Chaos. It’s a record that will ultimately keep the faithful Bodomites happy the way the band’s previous album Halo Of Blood did, while offering up a few surprises as it plays out. During the interview for BraveWords – coming soon – we stepped away from I Worship Chaos a little bit to discuss some recent projects outside the band that ultimately remain linked to Finland’s favourite Hatecrew.
And yes, “Hel” is spelled correctly in the title above. Trust me.
Diehard fans are well aware of Wirman’s other band, Warmen, and Laiho’s connection to it. Unlike Children Of Bodom, which features primarily Laiho-powered songs, Wirman calls the shots along with his brother Antti (guitars) in Warmen. Laiho has made guest appearances on the last three Warmen albums, however, and has performed live with the band on occasion. Warmen’s latest record, First Of The Five Elements, features Laiho on the song “Suck My Attitude”, a track that realistically could have been submitted and recorded as a Children Of Bodom tune without pissing off the vast majority of fans. Much the same way “High Heels On Cobblestone” from Warmen’s previous album, Japanese Hospitality, could have survived the COB treatment.
“Yeah, almost, but that’s not the way we think,” says Wirman. “Sure, if ‘Suck My Attitude’ had a little tweaking done it could almost pass as a Bodom song, but that’s not the point. I think ‘Suck My Attitude’ is more Lamb Of God influenced, and it was written mostly by my brother. Obviously people can hear the Children Of Bodom influence in it, but I hear lots of Lamb Of God in there because both of us are huge fans. It’s funny because it’s almost like a tribute (laughs). Getting Alexi to sing on the song, and the ‘Suck my attitude!’ chorus, just fit perfectly. I love how it turned out, and I really love the fact we got to play it live this summer at the Tuska festival with Alexi singing with us.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Musicians and journalists who have been doing their respective schticks long enough are painfully aware of how the Q&A process can become agonizingly formulaic. The artist hopes the press person on his or her list knows more than just the band’s name and the title of their new album. The journalist prays the musician is able to go beyond saying the new album is the best thing he / she / they have ever done. If both sides have their collective shit together, as in this case, it makes for a very interesting conversation.
I recently spoke with W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless about the band’s new album, Golgotha. At one point, discussion surrounding the long break between the new record and Babylon from 2009 turned into a look inside one of W.A.S.P.’s strongest albums, The Crimson Idol (1992), a personal favourite. From there it became a look back on the early days of the band’s career and the album that transformed W.A.S.P. from being regarded as an unruly party tribe to frighteningly intelligent musicians, The Headless Children.
With regards to Golgotha being four years in the making – due to Lawless going through various surgeries to mend broken body parts, and a W.A.S.P. 30th Anniversary tour – Lawless claims it was good for him to have time to live with the material and let it grow. There’s always the danger, however, that you might lose the passion for the project or start second guessing your work the longer you hammer away at it.
“The first part, no; the second part was definitely a consideration,” says Lawless. “You start making one record and by the time you’re finished you’re into making another one. When we did The Crimson Idol, I came very close to doing that. I started writing the story, and by the time I got to the end of that two year process I had fleshed out the character (Johnathan Steele) so much that to me he was like a living, breathing person. There’s a tendency to want to modify the story, but it’s like ‘No, stick to the script… (laughs).’ I had to tell myself to let it go. Looking back at that now, had I given in I would have killed the Idol record.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
During my interview with Kobra And The Lotus vocalist Kobra Paige for the band’s new Canadian rock classic covers EP, Words Of The Prophets, one subject that came up was the band’s lack of touring in support of their full length album from 2014, High Priestess. They had the once-in-a-career experience of opening for KISS and Def Leppard through North America that same year, but Kobra And The Lotus were conspicuously absent from the European touring and festival circuit after years of being non-stop on the go on both sides of the Atlantic. At least that’s how it seemed.
“You’re completely right, we toured significantly less,” agrees Paige. “The main reason for that was I got really sick and the doctors said I couldn’t go out on the road. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and it got really, really bad. We didn’t tour for eight months. I’m just starting to get back into it now but I’m still on antibiotics and being treated.”
According to medical journals Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks that can cause arthritis, neurological issues, and heart problems. It also wears down your immune system. Fortunately, the disease is NOT contagious and can’t be passed directly from human to human.
“I wasn’t sure if I should say anything about it to the fans or bring it up in the press because it was scary being off the road. If a band’s activity drops people start to forget about you really fast, but it was unavoidable. Basically, my body took me out. I had such severe mono that I didn’t really get out of bed in the first month that we were home. You can’t fight anything off when your immune system gets so bad like that. The last place you want to be when that happens is on the road because there’s nothing working for you at all.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Halestorn vocalist Lzzy Hale clearly has no concept of downtime, having used whatever breathing room she had in between tours to speak with me for a new BraveWords feature story. That interview can be found here. Following are a few extra bits of insight from that discussion:
Lzzy is, of course, known for her killer voice and good looks, but in keeping with her next generation Joan Jett appeal, she also plays guitar. In fact, she looks rather strange on stage without her signature Explorer in hand.Asked if she’s at all disappointed by most people treating her axe-playing as as afterthought – although Premier Guitar recently did their best to remedy that with a rig rundown – Lzzy doesn’t worry about it.
“I got into playing guitar because I wanted to be a bad-ass,” she admits. “That really was the only reason. I followed Tom Keifer from Cinderella and decided I had to get off the piano (laughs). As I learned more about the instrument it became more of a personal journey for me. I don’t really mind being in the shadows guitar-wise because I’m becoming a better player year after year. As that happens people will start noticing me as a guitar player. I don’t pay a lot of attention to people paying a whole lot of attention to me (laughs).” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
In 2000, Niagara native Tim Donahue made a small international splash with Into The Light, a solo record showcasing his skills as a fretless guitarist featuring current Foreigner vocalist Kelly Hansen. A year later he began working on a significantly heavier batch of songs that were unashamedly metal-influenced and came with a wish list of potential singers. During a meeting in Toronto over burgers and beer, I had the honour of hearing what would eventually become the Madmen & Sinners album. Asked who I felt would be the best voice for the material, I suggested Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie, unaware his name was at the top of Donahue’s list. Contact was made, plans were hatched, and in 2004 the duo released the Madmen & Sinners debut, an album unique to their respective careers. It was new territory for both Donahue and LaBrie, and ground they (sadly) haven’t returned to since.
“I don’t play the six-string fretless at all anymore unless I’m asked, like for the tracks on Nozomi Itani’s album (Station To Station from 2012). That was the first time I picked up the fretless in many years. Other than that I play the fretless harp guitar. I hate to say it, but the harp guitar has so much going on that when I pick up the six-string I yawn (laughs). I don’t mean that as anything against traditional guitars but the harp guitar kicks my ass and takes me to places I’ve never been.”
Although it’s been over 10 years since the release of Madmen & Sinners, the record still holds a special place in Donahue’s heart.
“I love the heaviness of the tunes. There are a lot of heavy bands out there and I’m certainly not the heaviest guitarist, but the songs and the actual writing, I think that’s why the music hits you in the heart even though some of the songs are really heavy.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Every time Kamelot and Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz are mentioned in the same sentence, the buzz that follows is usually enough to break the internet. With that in mind, consider this a bit of shameless promotion featuring an excerpt from a new Kamelot interview with guitarist Thomas Youngblood, due to be published on BraveWords just prior to the release of their new Haven album in early May.
At this point in Kamelot’s career guest vocalists are an (admittedly) expected part of any production at their hands, whether it’s an album, festival show or full blown tour (headline or support). Their new album, Haven, satisfies those expectations with the return of vocalist Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), new voice on the block Charlotte Wessels (Delain), and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, all of whom appear at select points during the latest Kam-epic’s run. They are a welcome element in the band’s musical tapestry that would be sorely missed by many if they weren’t involved.
“I never want to feel like we have to have female vocals on an album and who knows, maybe on the next record we won’t,” says Youngblood. “People forget that on The Fourth Legacy (1999) we had two songs with female vocals, so it wasn’t like we jumped on some bandwagon. We did that 15 years ago. The difference now is that we’re lucky enough to have some super-talented friends that also work perfectly within the Kamelot structure. Somebody like Alissa for example, who isn’t really known for melodic metal or power metal or whatever you want to call it, the way she works with us is so natural and organic it’s just amazing.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Bif Naked and I crossed paths for the first time 20 years ago. Ground zero was the long-since-gone Nightmares rock club in downtown Toronto; I was on M.E.A.T Magazine business prior to her show that night, and she left a lasting impression. Barely two years into my career as a journalist, she was one of the first “rock stars” I ever met and thus set the bar for the future quite high. It was also the first time I’d met a girl with real tattoos; a lot of ’em, decorating her arms and other areas of exposed skin. And no silly tramp stamp, no ridiculous upper-boob blotch of ink that’s supposed to be Japanese kanji for “Love” or “Truth” or “Vegans Rule!”. In stark contrast to the intimidating biker-goth image she wore – however unintentional – Bif was warm, friendly, and possessed a wicked sense of humour, making the 15 minute encounter a cherished memory. Although she doesn’t remember our meeting of the minds Bif most certainly recalls the show, one of a multitude of stories from the adventure that is her life.
“I got robbed at that show,” Bif laughs. “All my luggage and make-up got stolen by a drag queen; he took off running down the street and we couldn’t catch him. The cops gave me a ride from the gig in the back of their police car to where me and the band were staying, and they put the siren on for me. There were four or five undercover cops at the show that night and I got a police uniform shirt with the patches and all that. I wore it on stage for years and years after that. Yep, me and the Toronto police have a long history (laughs).”
Our previous interview took place in 2009 while Bif was out promoting The Promise. Four years earlier she was on top of the world with the success of her Superbeautifulmonster album; in 2008 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, making The Promise a comeback album in the truest sense. She actually recorded it while undergoing treatment, which was and remains a mindblowing fact. Bif was surprisingly upbeat in the aftermath while discussing some of the more stomach-churning aspects of her fight to survive, making her positive attitude in present day 2015 less of a shock in spite of several tragic events that have plagued her over the past few years. Divorce, medical issues, the loss of loved ones… Bif has taken all the punches fate has dealt her and continues to move forward undaunted. Continue Reading