The Sky's The Limit - Rick Altzi Speaks out about the new At Vance album.
At Vance are a impressive melodic German Heavy Metal band, that have been around since the mid 90's which the band features the impressive guitarist Olaf Lenk, who is the only original member of the band left. Olaf, is however an awesome guitarist, whom seems to be influenced by the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Richie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth, Paul Gilbert, as well as a lot of Classical influences such as J.S. Bach. The band started out with their debut album released back in 1999 titled 'No Escape' which was released by Shark Records, the label who brought you Sepultura's 'Morbid Visions' album, as well as many other bands such as 'Holy Mother'. The debut album also featured Rainald König (guitar), Ulli Muller (keyboards), Jochen Schnur (bass), and Spoony (drums) & Oliver Hartmann (vocals). Since the release of the bands debut album the band have also released such albums as 'Heart of Steel' 2000, 'Dragonchaser' 2001, 'Only Human' 2002, 'The Evil In You' 2003, 'Chained' 2005, 'VII' 2007 and now 'Ride The Sky' 2009. The band have gone through a couple of labels, but with the bands last few albums been released through AFM (Doro/ Destruction) the band look set to to really ride the sky, as there is no limits to this band. With various line-up changes, with such singers as ex Treat/ Yngwie Malmsteen singer Mats Leven, Firewinds drummer Mark Cross, and Oliver Hartmann (vocals) the band have gone from strength to strength. 'Ride The Sky', sees the album featuring new front man for Thunderstone Rick Altzi, who has also worked with Frequency. I managed to have a chat with front man Rick about the new At Vance CD, as well as his previous band 'Frequency' and how he also became the front man for 'Thunderstone'. Here is what Rick had to say. In the meantime, check out the new album, its impressive stuff.
Ok Rick, thanx for taking your time out and for doing this interview. I guess I better start by asking you a little bit about your background as a singer, at what age did you realize that you wanted to become a singer? Also who inspired you as a vocalist?
"Well I think I started to sing in about 2001 because originally I was a bass guitarist and my previous band had so many singers that left the band we in the end decided to have me doing the vocal and we thought it would be a lot easier for the band to find a replacement bassist. At that point I was listening too a lot of Yngwie Malmsteen singers such as Jeff Scott Soto, and I was drawn to his voice and I can relate to him in a way. I am also inspired by Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, they have inspired me the most."
What do you think of such singers like Mat Leven the former singer for At Vance? What about singers like Jorn Lande?
"I really like his vocals, I think he really did a good job with the Yngwie albums as well as the At Vance previous releases. I also really like Jorn, I discovered him when I was listening too a Masterplan CD and after which I started to listen too his solo albums. (ED: What about people like Rob Halford?). I was never really inspired by singers like Rob, he is a awesome singer but the clean and high pitch vocalist really wasn't my thing. I was more in to the more Blues style of Rock/ Metal singers, like Glenn Hughes, an awesome singer. I also like Tony Martin when he sang for Black Sabbath with such albums as 'TYR' and 'Headless Cross', but I really haven't heard much of his solo stuff. I do speak to him on Myspace from time to time."
At what age did you start to play the bass guitar?
"I started playing the bass guitar when I was 14 yrs old, and as a bass player I was playing with a Swedish metal band called 'Sanity' and we released just 1 CD, which was paid by ourselves. So later on I started to singer with them after 5- 6yrs of been their bass player with the guitarist from the band called 'Treasure Land' (ED: Yeah I remember those guys, they released 2 CDs for T&T Records), yeah that's right Jason. I actually joined that band for about 3-4 yrs but we never really did anything after the first 2 CD's, and in 2007 by Olaf from AT Vance."
Did you ever record any CD's with Treasure Land that were never released?
"No we didn't actually. We did however, write songs for about 4 yrs but they really didn't end up been released. I think they just stayed in their computers as songs. I left the band and they did continue with a different singer for a little longer, but he also quit the band after a couple of years. The 2 brothers in the band are great musicians but they really do take their time in doing stuff, which is a shame really. There are something like 10 songs we wrote for the next Treasure Land CD but I really can't see them releasing the songs. They actually re did the songs with the next singer but like I said he also quit the band."
What kind of style was the 'Sanity' CD?
"Well I would say it was more like heavy Progressive Metal, a little like 'Symphony X', and I was the bassist on that album."
Moving on, you also sang for the band called 'Frequency', their 2nd album is awesome, how did you become the singer for them and will you be doing the next album? That album reminds me of Nocturnal Rites, even your vocals, do you agree?
"Yeah I do agree with the vocals, I guess I do that a similar voice to Nils from Nocturnal Rites, and the Frequency album was a fun album to do, and I have known the guys in the band for some time now, they were looking for a new singer to record the 2nd album, as their previous singer Glenn had a car accident just before the recording of the 2nd album. So I was asked to step in and do the vocals for the band, as the studio was booked and they needed a singer to record the album whilst Glenn was recovering in hospital. And so I went in and recorded the vocals for the band but it wasn't suppose to of been me doing the vocals on that record. I am still in contact with the band, but my 2 main bands are At Vance and Thunderstone. They are writing songs for the next album, and I am not sure if I will be singing on the next album, we will have to wait and see"
You also sing for a band called 'Sandalinas', how did that come about?
"Well I was approached by Andy LaRocque from King Diamond to help out an album he was producing, this was 'Sandalinas' from Spain. he asked me to record the vocals for him and the singer from the first album is called Apollo from 'Firewind', who could not do the album because he was busy with Firewind at that time, so I decided to record the vocals for Andy and the band."
Ok moving on, how did you become the new singer for At Vance to appear on the 'VII' album?
"Well Olaf had heard my voice on the internet when I did some demos with Treasure Land, & we started to chat and I wanted him to do some guitar work on a couple of my solo songs as nothing happened with Treasure Land, so I wanted people to know about me. Olaf told me not to release songs for myself but instead he asked me to try out for his own band. So in the end I decided to give it ago and At Vance are one of my favourite bands so it wasn't hard for me to say yes!!"
Did the solo songs you wrote actually end up on the 'VII' album?
"No they didn't actually, I think it was too band that they didn't make the album. I write a lot of melodies and lyrics for the album but I am not really very good with guitar riffs, which I need help with and so I think some of my ideas did end up on the album.
Besides yourself been approach to join At Vance, who else did Olaf audition for the band as the next front man?
"I really don't know to be honest, that is a question you will have to ask Olaf, sorry."
That's ok, I guess some questions could be hard to answer. So lets move on then, as the band are based in Germany and you live in Sweden, is it hard for you to get together for tour rehearsals?
"Yeah I fly to Frankfurt, which is pretty easy for me to take a flight, it's only about 1 and a half hours to fly there."
Was the 'VII' album difficult to record for you and was there a lot of pressure on you? Also what songs from that album stood out for you and why?
"Well it wasn't really that hard for me to do, he sent me the music that he wanted me to try and write the lyrics for, and so I wrote a lot of lyrics and melodies and in the end some of them were used and some were altered. We ended up sending a lot of flies through the internet to one another and when the whole songs were ready to record I would fly to Germany and do the vocals. The vocals for this album were done in a week and the same happened with the new album. There was a lot of preparing for the album, and I wouldn't say there was a real lot of pressure, but we did try to make the perfect album. From that album the songs I do like are 'Shiver', as I wrote the lyrics and melodies for that song as my mother died and she was only 50 years old, and so I think that is the best song for me I think. When I am working with an album I really can't say I like it at that time. I start to like it a year or so after it has been released and recorded, and if the album takes about a year to prepare and record it starts to grind on you, you get tired with it and start to ask if you could of played or sang better on the album at that time."
Did you have any other titled for that album 'VII'?
"Well it was the bands 7th studio album so we thought it would be a perfect choice for the title. I don't think many people liked the title to be honest (laughing)."
Ok moving on, out of the previous album At Vance have done which ones do you like and why?
"Well I like the album 'Only Human', because and that was the first album I started to listen too by the band which featured Oliver on vocals, and I also like the 2 albums that Mat sang on too. (Ed: What do you think of Oliver's vocals as well?) I think he is a really good singer, he can do the really high pitch vocals with a blues feel to his voice. I met Oliver and Mats at Sweden Rock 2008 so we all had our photo's taken together, which was great!!"
So lets talk about the new At Vance CD 'Ride The Sky', why the title, was there a season behind this? Also tell me ab out the Angel with the wings, I believe this has been a symbol on a previous At Vance CD, am I correct?
"Well we made a song called 'Ride The Sky' and we waited for the artwork to be finished and we had a lot of pictures and the cover we sued fitted the title of the album perfectly. We could of called the album 'End Of Days', but I think the title we chose was the prefect choice. Well the last 3 albums had a girl on the cover, with the album 'Chained' and 'VII', and I really don't know why? We changed our illustrator and the artwork featured more girls on the cover. We are happy with the artwork for the new album. With the 'VII' I wasn't too happy with the artwork, at one point we were I had to take my pictures in Sweden because I didn't have time to do them in Germany. With the new album we did all the artwork together as a band which worked out a lot better."
I noticed that Olaf plays drums on this album was there a reason why you didn't use a session drummer for the album or find a full time drummer?
"Well he played the drums on a Roland drum kit, electronic drum sounds, but he actually is a good drummer. Well we have a drummer his name is Alex and he is a great drummer who will do the live drumming for us. I think it was with time problems were we started to record and Olaf did all the drumming himself on the demos that they actually were so good we used them on the album. We worked so hard on this album that when we finished recording the demo drums we had to re-record the whole drums again which was more time consuming and money. Like I said the drums were so good on the demo we just used them on the album. I think on the next album we will use Alex in the studio or at least plan how we will record the next album a little better."
Where the songs from the new album wrote by yourself or with Olaf?
"Well Olaf and myself wrote them together. Olaf writes most of the music as the guitar player and I write a lot of the lyrics and melodies so we do work together so we can create the best sound and lyrics, riffs etc... Olaf usually comes up with the first idea for each song and we work on them together."
Which songs from the new albums stand out for you and why Is there any that you don't like?
"There are a couple of songs that I like, and I think in about a year I will like them even more. I do like the title track 'Ride The Sky', and it was one of the 1st songs we started to do and there is a song which is not on the normal CD, but a bonus track for the Japanese which is called 'The Gloomy Monday', which I really do like. We had to choose which songs we wanted on the European version of the CD and 1 for the Japanese. I personally would of taken 1 of the songs off the European version and had 'The Gloomy Monday' on the European version. I think it is the heaviest song that At Vance have ever done, it is really slow but it has a de-tuned guitar sound. It's hard to say what songs I like and dislike when you have been preparing & recording the songs for a year or so, you really can't tell which 1's you like or not. I guess in a year things will have changed. I do like 'Torn' and 'Power'."
Are you totally happy with the way the album turned out? Did you also plan on having any special guests on this album?
"Yeah I'm happy with the way the album turned out, I am also happy with the way the last album turned out too 'VII'. Well we had no plans to have any special guests on the new album, we did try out with several cover songs but we ended up using the Free song 'Wishing Well'. Maybe in the future we might have a special guest on the next album. I would like to have some of the older singers on the next album Oliver and Mats."
what sort of press reviews has the new album been getting so far? Any good 1s?
"Well mainly I think they have been good, I would say about 70- 80% have been positive so far. We have had some reviews that have not been that good, but there is nothing you can do about those reviews, some people will like it and some will not. Power Metal in Sweden is not that popular unless your like 'The Poodles', 'Hammerfall' and then it's ok. We didn't get good reviews that much last year in Sweden and it's too 90's."
Moving on, the band have enough material and albums out now to record a live DVD, is this something that you have for a future recording in mind?
"I really don't know to be honest, and for the last album we have had a slow start for touring, but we hope that this new album will get us on the road quicker and we hope to play more shows. We are not a really big band but on the other hand we are not a really small band either. So I think it is tough on the company to release a live DVD and we hope to get on tour with a package deal were we can record a live DVD. I think it will be great fun to tour again soon, Olaf is a bit tired with the last tour as he was playing stuff from 'Chained' but now he is starting to talk about touring for this new album."
Moving away from At Vance, I believe you have joined 'Thunderstone', how did that come about?
"Well this is my debut album with the band, and we are now signed to Sony in Finland, I am not sure when the album will be released in Europe and world-wide. I am not sure why the old singer left the band, but they called me and asked if I wanted to join the band. So I have it a shot and things are working out really well."
Well Rick, thanx for doing this interview, do you have anything to say to the fans of At Vance out there?
"Yeah thanx for your support, we hope you like the new At Vance CD, please check it out and look for a tour very soon. Thanx for the interview and good luck with Friday 13th."
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