Interview With Russell Allen
Well know for his work with New Jersey Prog Power Metal act 'Symphony X', Russell Allen makes his doubt release under the name of 'Atomic Soul', which also features Michael Romeo on guitar, also with Symphony X. Russell is one of those singer's that stands out for most other metal singers because of his powerful yet melodic voice, that he can sing any form of rock or metal music. The debut album released on Inside Out show's his ability to not only play and sing Prog metal but also other forms for Metal or Rock. This album shows Russell in another form, playing Rock in the vain of Badlands, Kings X, Led Zepplin, just to name a few... I certainly spoke to Russell to find out more about his solo project, also the Star One project and to also ask him about another project his is about to release this year which features another outstanding vocalist, this been Jorn Lande. Both of which have teamed up to release a project later this year, what an album this will be!!! I also asked him about the forthcoming Symphony X album. Here is what Russell had to say to the 1st and many more questions.
Looking back at the previous Symphony X days, which is your favourite album you have recorded so far and why?
"Mmm, I would have to say that 'The Odyssey' is my favourite, because I like the way that everything just came together with the heavier guitar sound and the album still managed to keep the symphonic sound. To this date I still think that this album is awesome and I think it has 5 really outstanding trax on it. The actual song is amazing as I had the chance to do various types of vocal harmonies, like the Paul Rodgers style at the beginning and the yes style vocals, it was a lot of fun to record."
What about your least favourite album with Symphony X and why?
"I think it would have to be 'Damnation Game', as I just joined the band and I recorded all the vocals for that album in 3 days. So, to me it just seemed so disconnected and all the music and lyrics were already done, I just had to record the vocals and I didn't feel that relaxed in the studio."
As you mentioned Paul Rodgers, what is your opinion on him joining the so called 'Queen'?
"Well I have mixed emotions on that subject. I am happy that 'Queen' are playing again & I'm happy that he is doing it, but I'm not sure how it is going to work out. I'm not too bothered as I would love to see Brian May play and sing live. They might not be able to pull some numbers off, but I think if they mix 'Queen' and 'Free' stuff together it may work. I don't understand why they did it, but it is a surprise!!"
Moving back to Symphony X, what are you guys up to right now, I know you are recording the next album, just how far into the recording are you and also what is the next album going to sound like, heavier?
"Well the pre-production of the new album is been finished as we speak, and the new album is more riff driven in the sense that the riffs are very solid and the movements in the parts are not so crazy!! It still has that Progressive element to it and the straight forward stuff is a lot more solid to that of 'Inferno', etc... and it has a darker and heavier side to it. The symphonic sound is not so happy as it was on the 'Odyssey' and it has become a more haunting and more powerful. We don't have any song titles as of yet and I have yet to record my vocals in June. I thought the drums on the last album were dry and lifeless, whereas the next one will be more powerful sounding. I also thought that of the bass guitar sound too, you can hear all the instruments, but it sound too dry for that album. On my solo album I went for that sound because I thought it suited that kind of music. I think the new album will last roughly about 60 minutes or so... I don't want to write mythological lyrics no more, it's becoming boring. I want to try something new.
Talking of Pantera, what did you think when you heard about Dimebag's death? Also no disrespect to you been from the U.S., but do you feel that your culture is fucked up?
"Damn it was a sad day, I met his wife and she is so sweet, I really feel sorry for her and his family. Zakk from Black Label Society brought her out on the road just to help her out. I'm not sure about my culture been fucked up, I know it happened here and there are some crazy people in the world, and for many years we never had any terrorist try to bomb the United States, but we heard about it in Europe all the time. So you really don't know what society or culture is going to do such a band thing. I know we have a bad gun problem over here, but the majority of people over here don't do these kind of things. He was a fucked up fan, it was a shame that such a great talent died because of a stupid fucked up fan."
What do you think of Jason's side project 'Redemption', which also features Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel)?
"To be honest, I have not even heard that project!! Jason never actually gave me a copy of the CD."
Talking of projects', I recently interviewed a good friend of my, Finn from 'Beyond Twilight', he told me you were going to sing on the new album. What went wrong?
"Ok, firstly tell Finn I said hello!! I really wanted to help him out but I had no time for the album. I was doing so much I couldn't help him and I really like his stuff and I have to say I really liked his stuff more than other things that came my way."
What do you think of Mike Lepond's side project with James Rivera (Helstar), the project under the name of Distant Thunder.
"Yes I did hear that album, and I thought it was cool!! Mike is such a great person, very mellow person but a wicked bass player!! He has great taste in music and I have a lot of respect for him, it's a great CD!!"
One big question I have for you, when will Symphony X be releasing a DVD, it's about time you released one, after all there are bands on Inside Out who have released a DVD before you!!
"Well we did talk about it, but I think we will wait till the next tour and then film one. It is certainly on the list to record one soon I promise you that!! I don't want people to sit at home and watch us, when they should be at one of our shows (Laughing). It's not a question of us not wanting to record one, it's about getting the timing right."
I believe you are going to release a project with Jorn Lande, damn that is going to fucking rule!! Tell me more please, two awesome singers together!! How did you hook up with Jorn and tell me how the music will sound!!
"Well basically the record company put it together, it was Frontier Records from Italy. They wanted to pair the both of us up and to me it sounded like a great idea. I like Jorn's vocals a lot, he is a great singer!! I first heard him when he was with 'Ark' (ED: A great band sadly missed), and that was a great band. I knew from that day that Jorn had more to offer than just high pitch screams, he has soul and power. The album is very singer friendly that we are recording. We both sing 3 individual songs, and the rest is both of us both together. I'm not sure who the musicians are on the record. I know Magnus Karlsson played the guitars on the album, he is with 'Last Tribe', he is a great player. I would say that the music is kind of Pop/ Metal. I recorded my vocal parts here in New Jersey and they sent me all the stuff on a 24 bit file and I just went to the studio and did my bit over here."
Was it difficult writing lyrics between you, when you are in the States and Jorn in Norway?
"I actually didn't write any of the music or lyrics, they were already done, all I had to do was record my vocals. I did change some of the lyrics around because the English was not correct. I got the stuff a long time ago, but I was busy with my own solo album so they had to wait a while. I think the album will be releases in August and I think it will be called 'Allan/Lande' or something to that effect."
Moving on now to your solo album, Atomic Soul what made you wanted to do a solo album in this kind of Hard Rock vibe which reminds me of Badlands, Kings X, etc.. do you agree? Was it also a tension releasing album, something that you wanted to do for a long time outside of Symphony X?
"Yes I totally agree with you Jase, it does sound like those bands, a hard edged Hard Rock/ Blues sounding album. I guess it was a tension releasing album in one way or another. I wanted to get a good group of musicians around me for this album, I wanted friends and not people like who's, who?? kind of thing. I got lucky with friends of Mike Romeo's friends from this area. Mike plays some of the guitar on the record. He also played a lot of bass guitar on this record. I have Robert Nelson on drums, he played with Mikes old band called 'Phantoms Opera' and he is one of the best drummers I have ever worked with!!! He is so gifted and talented guy and all the songs were recorded on one take. I played guitar solo on the song 'The Distance', I can't play any faster than that (Laughing)."
So why the name Atomic Soul for the solo project, did you have any other names in mind?
"Well basically I needed something that would fit the style of music and the way I sing. I was thinking of a name that began with Atomic, and I told my wife that I needed some kind of a retro kind of name from that time of the 70's. So my wife came up with the Soul part of the name and I thought it was a great name for this project. I don't think I had any other names, like I said Atomic.... was the first part of the name I just needed a second part and my wife found that for me."
OK Russell, moving on, could you tell me a little bit about the songs on the album please!!
"OK, firstly we have 'Blackout', it's probably me watching too much of the History Channel and I was thinking of the blitz and stuff during World War 2, so I took a kind of swing style of music for that song. It was a bad time in history, but such a powerful event. Next is 'Unjustified', that s a pretty heavy tune and and that's about what my feels are around me right now in the world. Next is 'Voodoo Hand', this is a Delta Blues/Rock feeling song and I had that flavour in the song. 'Angel' is next, that is about life and the ending of life, it's kind of depressive actually and I have been down from time to time and I believe in angels. Next is 'The Distance', that is a song about a relative of mine who pasted away, who was my wife's uncle and I had known him for a long time and it got me thinking about loss of love ones. 'Season's Of Insanity', and is a song about me been addicted to video games. Next is 'Gaia', that is about a Greek goddess of the earth, the other of the titans, so it is about how scared the earth is and how we should respect it more. Next is 'Loosin You', that is about somebody who treats you bad, you had just had enough, we have all been there!! 'Saucey Jack, that is actually about a drink, it is basically Jack Daniels mixed with another drink, and that is a drink that Michael Romeo drinks and my drink is Captain Morgan and coke. So basically it is just the both of us messing around and having fun!! Next is 'We Will Fly', that is probably the most progressive song on the album if you want to call it that. I wrote that song to dedicated it to my wife, she is always there for me in good and bad times, so basically we fly through good & bad times together. Last song is 'Atomic Soul', which is the title track, and it is about a road experience song, what it is like to tour and play live, the energy and feel of having a good time whilst on tour."
So how long did i take to record the album? Was it also recorded in the same studio where you record Symphony X albums, The Dungeon?
"Yes we tracked the album in 'The Dungeon', and I ended up mixing the album at another studio because of problems with the studio and Mike Romeo wanted to get back to the Symphony X album. So, I understood that He told me to check out a guy called Don, who is a old school guy and he would understand what you wanted in the sound you were looking for. So I went to his studio and checked out what he was doing whilst recording some other bands at that time. So I'm glad I did because it really did turn out well."
What kind of review's has the album been receiving so far?
"The album has been receiving overwhelming reviews so far, I can't believe it and I'm kind of shocked right now!! It has been getting 8-9/10 marks for the album so far."
Do you agree that it is a waste of time to record a solo or side project if it is going to sound like your own band?
"Yes I totally agree with you. It seems pointless to me! If I had to be trapped on a island I would take a Led Zepplin CD with me, because that is what I'm into!! I am lucking to be able to bring some of that into Symphony X. My influences are very different from the rest of the band."
Will Atomic Soul be out on the road as a band or is it just a studio album and that is it?
"I would most certainly like to tour with this solo album, I have been asked this by all the press so far, and my response has been 'No I have no plans too, but if the offer arises then Yes'. I would like to tour, it would be a lot of fun!! I just need t see what the public response will be for the album. I have so much to do right now, the Jorn/ Lande CD and Symphony X album, so it's all in the air right now."
Would you ever go on tour with Atomic Soul & Symphony X together? I know some other musician's have done 2 sets on the same bill.
"No I would not consider that, it would be too much for one night. There is too much power in one night for me, it's too hard!!!"
Moving away from Atomic Soul now, will you ever be doing another CD for the 'Star One' project? Also did you enjoy recording the live CD/ DVD?
"Well I have nothing planned at the moment, as Arjen has just finished his album not so long ago. I would love to do the next one if he asks me and if I also have the time. Yes I did enjoy recording the live CD/DVD, it was a lot of fun!!
Well Russell, thank you once again for doing this interview, it has been a pleasure to speak to one of the greatest Metal/ Rock singers around today. Do you have anything to say before we finish? I want to wish you the best of luck with Symphony X, Atomic Soul and the Allen/ Lande CD.
"I am so thankful to our fans for their great support in the UK, we now have a great place where we can hang out and play some shows now. Thank's for the interview Jase, hope we meet up again soon. Take care brother.
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