As the Lion Speaks Out - Lars Chriss Tells All.
Lions Share are no strangers to the world of Metal, formed back in 1995 by Lars Chriss and the with band formed in Sweden like so many fine acts the band have gone through line-up changes throughout the years Lions Share are yet another band with various line-up changes. The band featured members of The Poodles/ Hammerfall and Beyond Twilight/ Section A. Lars is the only original member left to this day. The band released their debut album through Century Media in 95 which was self titled and very much in the melodic/ progressive metal elements. This album saw the band been praised by fans and press alike world wide. In 97 the band released their 2nd album just under the name of 'Two', simple but to the point, also released through Century Media. The bands debut was released through their own label but later on re-released through Century Media. The band soon left Century Media and released 'Fall From Grace; which saw the band taking a more darker approach and was released through Massacre Records in 99. The band later on recorded 'Entrance' in 2001 and in 2007 after a long break they returned with 'Emotional Coma', which featured new singer Patrik Johansson (Astral Doors, Wuthering Heights) and bassist Sampo Axelsson (Glenn Hughes). Now the line-up was complete and well the rest is history..... I managed to have a chat with Lars, as this is a long overdue interview since the days of the Fanzine. So listen to what Lars has to say about the new album 'Dark Hours', which is released through Blistering records. Here is what Lars had to say tot he following questions.
The last time we did an interview Lars was for the Fanzine back in the 90's, so I'd like to start this interview were we last left off. Could you tell me just how successful the 'Two' album was for the band?
"Well I think it was pretty good for the time back then and Hard Rock is much more popular right now and on the other hand it is easier to download albums now to what it was back in the 90's. I think back we might of made a mistake by leaving Century Media because we went on tour in Europe with Nevermore and Iced Earth and we did some touring with Saxon as well. So we had the opportunity to go to the office of Century Media in Dortmund (Germany) and when we got there we noticed there were a lot of skate punks working there and we kind of freaked out and we thought these people were not the kind of people who should taking care of our band. As this was our most progressive album we had done we felt they didn't really know how to promote us, so we felt really misplaced on that label even though the manager and crew were really nice we looked around and saw that Massacre Records had more bands that were more suitable towards our music. So we left Century Media and signed with Massacre, because they had more bands that appealed to us such as King Diamond, Pretty Maids, Pink Cream 69 back then. So we had heard that they had problems around the time we recorded the 'Fall From Grace' album so we saw the opportunity to leave C.M. records. We went to Massacre and I think we made a mistake as we now feel that we could of got a better deal with Century Media. We did however do a lot of touring around the time when we released the 'Two' and the label at that time were good and they put their bands on tour whereas Massacre did not but any of their bands on tour back then. When we released the 'Fall From Grace' album they had just fired their promotion guy so there was no promotion for that album, so that album had got very badly handled even though it's a great album. We did a great tour for that album, and even though Massacre never had the rights to the band in Scandinavia we went on a big arena tour with opening up for Dio, Manowar, Motorhead for a month which was incredible!! We had so much fun on that tour as we all grew up with these band and Ronnie James Dio is my all time favorite singer of all time was such a pleasure to tour with."
So if you wasn't signed to Massacre in Scandinavia, who were you signed to then?
"Well I own all the masters for the albums and I am a little bit of a control freak, so I have contacts so I have printed the album and pout whatever label was on them with the bar codes. We had a good distribution with 'Playground Music', and that worked better for us better than it did with Massacre records in Europe."
You re-released the first 2 albums on Century Media and some on Massacre, was there any extra trax on them & were they re-mastered?
"Well Massacre did the 1st 2 CDs as a double album but for some reason it annoys me because some people think it is a 'Best Of...' album, which it isn't. It is the 1st 2 albums with a couple of bonus trax on the '' Perspective' , so when you leave a label and you own the masters you can end a contract and that is was we did with Century Media. I had to take care of everything so in the end I burnt myself out so I had to take a break for while. That is why it has taken so long to release more albums after the forth album in 2001."
How do you see the '1st 3 albums as a progression from 1 another?
"Well when we started out we had tried to incorporate all of our influences into our music because we liked the true metal sound like the stuff we have on 'Dark Hours' and the more prog metal stuff like Dream Theater's 'Images & Words' album, Queensryche and we even like the more melodic stuff like AOR stuff like Foreigner. So I guess the 1st album is a mixture of all our influences really but many compared it to Black Sabbath's 'Headless Cross' album. If you take a song like 'Heavy Cross To Bare' on the CD could of been a song which could of been on our debut album. We tried to head in a more progressive era on the 2nd album but we felt that when we played those songs live people were falling to the floor after jumping to songs on the 1st album. So after the 'Two' album we became more straight forward and heavier and that evolution has not stopped yet. I would say that the 'Fall From Grace' album is the most common album to date with heavy riffing."
Moving on, do you still keep in touch with the old members?
"Yeah I do keep in touch with quite a few of them (laughing), Pontus went onto play with 'The Poodles', Andy I have not seen him for a while and I think he has left the music industry now. Pontus and I mainly keep in touch as The Poodles and Lions Share have shared the same stage together in the past."
After Andy Engberg left the band as the front man he was replaced Tony Niva for the album 'Entrance', how did that album sell for the band and were you happy with it? Who else did you have as auditions after Andy left the band?
"Well that was a pretty good album, and Tony was good singer who could at time sing very high like Geoff Tate (Queensryche). he did the 1 album with us and we never heard from him since then. That album is very melodic though and he can be very aggressive with his voice too even though it is not our most metal sounding album we have done. We received a bag full of tapes from various singers and we picked about 3 singers and we sent them some sing back verses from our songs for the to sing. We decided to pick Tony and bring him to our rehearsal room and that how he got the job. One of the other singers was in a band called 'Majestic' who released an 2 albums on Massacre records and another guy who I wasn't sure what bands he was in before or after he auditioned for us but he was pretty good too."
Out of all the previous albums do you have a particular favourite album and why?
"No not really Jason, but I really do like 'Entrance' really because I really like the songs even though I can regret to production as we had a lot of problems especially with the drums which didn't sound big enough and we had to struggle with the production and I feel it could of had a little bit more of a edge to that album. I also like 'Fall From Grace', because with the production and the darkness of the album and we still play 'Unholy Rites' now. I like the heavy doom riffing of Tony Iommi and the up tempo riffs of Judas Priest or Accept or maybe the thrash style of Megadeth. All of our songs are built on riffs before we make an album. In the future we try to incorporate more up-tempo songs as I love the doom Sabbath sounding heavy slow stuff but I know that the common regular listener likes the more up-tempo stuff."
Moving on you recorded a Judas Priest cover tune for the Priest tribute album which was released on Century Media 'Touch Of Evil' why did you decide to record that song and were you happy with the end results? Also has Judas Priest heard your version of that song?
"Well we decide to record that song because it is a heavy song and that is a song we felt comfortable recording back then. It was a really cool song to record and it was endorsed by Judas Priest and their management and the band wrote the liner notes and they were involved in picking the bands for that tribute album and the songs. I know that band enjoyed our version of the song with was an added bonus."
So tell me how you came to get the current line-up with Patrik from Astral Doors and Sampo from Glenn Hughes band. Also did you feel the timing was right to return with Lions Share after you were burnt out?
"Yeah I do feel the timing was right to return with the band. After the break I decide to separate the influences and Lions Share should be a true and pure metal band and I felt that I should do something more melodic & whatever else I wanted to do. I even made an album when I had the break with Sampo who comes from a more 70's style background and he had a couple of riffs and so we started writing 'Emotional Coma' but the songs were great but not right for that album. So we decided to do a side project with 'Road To Ruin' came about, which is a really great album. Finding Patrik was pretty easy as he had not put anything out for a while and he joined the band in 2003 and I kept writing songs after the break so I sent Patrik the songs and riffs and then I started emailing Tony Martin (Ex Black Sabbath) and he was interested in what I was doing after I sent him some songs to check out. It wasn't like he was going to join Lions Share, it was more of a case of him writing songs together and see in what came out of it. About the same time I heard a song on a mp3 of Patrik right before his 1st album came out with Richard Andersson 'Space Odyssey' with the song 'Desire and Pain' which blown me away!! So I looked him put and found my Tony Martin of Sweden and I approached him and he was already a fan of Lions Share, which did help out a lot. After he joined the band he was releasing albums with Astral Door. Tony wanted to get away from the Sabbath style and I found Patrik by accident I heard him so having Tony in the band might not of worked within Lions Share, but maybe with another project."
I was listening to the debut album with Partik and I thought this guy is a copy of Tony Martin and Dio, was that kind of scary for you to find somebody who sounds just like these 2 singers?
(Laughing) "Well we are all huge Dio fans and I don't think he is trying to sound them either just that he sounds like that when he sings and it is a voice that I am into and Ronnie is my favourite singer. I also like Russell Allen from Symphony X, Jorn Lande, that kind of voice appeals to me. I think they are my 2 favourite new singers."
Moving on, why did you decide to call the album title 'Emotional Coma' for that release? Also what songs from that album do you like and why?
"That is a tough question, I am heavily involved with everything and I think Patrik wrote all the lyrics and the hardest part is the titles for the songs and the album too. I cant remember having any other titles for that album, maybe but I just cant remember. The album sold well but it is also hard to get a good figure of sales. I really like that album as a whole and we always try to as we create various mood tempos on the album from start to finish but I do like the songs Cult Of Denial, The Arsonist, Emotional Coma, Clones Of Fate, The Edge Of The Razor', Trafficking, Soul Taker."
The cover for that album is very dark, why was that? You also did 1 album with AFM records, why was that?
"Well when we made a comeback we decided we wanted a mascot figure and like Iron Maiden's Eddie, we could use our mascot on all the covers. We had a artist here in Sweden who designed the covers and the mascot. With regards to AFM, I was really happy with the label but I got approached by some investors to form a new label and they wanted me to set everything up and they had the money & I had the experience and contacts, so they made me a co-owner and president of the label. They really wanted me to bring along Lions Share and Road To Ruin and so we worked out a deal with AFM and we put out a couple of their albums too in the U.S. and they were really cool about it as they didn't have a office out there. We still work together and we always hang out when we meet up at 'Popcom'. I'm now working with Blistering Records."
Last time I spoke to you, you were working with Escapi Music, what went wrong there?
"Well those guys fucked up big time!! I only worked with the promotion and they wanted to be a major label and were spending money on the urban thing with Snoop Dog and all that shit. They lost all the money and started to screw people by not paying them including employees so I felt and I wasn't paid."
Ok Lars, so lets talk about the new album 'Dark Hours', why the title?
"Well it was because all the lyrics are about big historical events that have happened which happened in the late 60's. So we wanted a title that would reflect the late 60's, and we are not singing about the flower power thing, more the darker stuff. Patrik came up with the title for the album which we thought was a great title."
Lets talk about the song titles, they don't seem very 60's influenced do they?
"No not really, songs like 'Judas Must Die', that's about a South American freedom fighter, his name is 'Shagwa'. Next is 'Phantom Rider' which is about Charles Manson and Patrik was inspired with a book he wrote and some of the lyrics were based on that book. I think 3 of the songs on the album are based on Charles Manson. The song 'Demon In Your Mind' is about 1 of the worst mass murderers of all time, he was some Canadian who killed his family & the song 'The Bottomless Pit', that's about Manson kingdom underground were he controlled the world. When we had recorded most of the album we were working on 1 of the last songs it was on the news that the police went back to Manson's to search for more bodies at the 'Barker Ranch' but they didn't find any bodies. Some of the songs are about the Vietnam war, like 'Napalm Nights' and 'Full metal Jacket', 'Behind The Curtain' is about the Warsaw packed when they invaded Chez Republic in 68 and the song 'The Presidio 27' is about a prisoner that was killed in San Francisco 68 and 27 prisoners were pissed off that they started a riot. The song 'Cross To Bare' is about Martha Luther King and the song 'Space Scam' is a song we had some discussions about if we ever landed on the moon."
So where you totally happy with the end results of the production? I have noticed that the band is only a trio, so who played drums on the album?
"Yeah very much, we used a new sound engineer called Jens Bogram who is pretty famous as he did the new Opeth album and Amon Amarth, Paradise Lost and that is why we hired him because he did the last Symphony X album. The whole thing turned out great, production, our performances. I had a clear vision on what I wanted to do with the album so I did have some input on the record. Sampo and myself record the bass, drums and guitars ourselves and then we take the rest to be mastered. We use a drummer called Coney Petrasson and he is in a Death metal band called 'Anath' on Earache records. We asked Jens if he knew anybody who could play drums on the album and he mentioned Coney and he is a very tight drummer and very professional."
What do you think about the down loading of CD's these days, do you feel you are suffering?
"Well you need money to carry the band on.., you need money to make another album. So all in all it is bad, because it is killing music. Back in the day it was only vinyl or tapes which was a lot harder to put on the internet, so it is hard for labels to promote their bands with touring etc..."
Would you say this the new album is the bands darkest album to date?
"That's a tough question? I think if you are referring to a darker and doomy album then I would have to say the album 'Emotional Coma' is the darkest album we have done. I think that the new album is more up tempo and the vocals melodies are a bit more direct and I think that the 'Emotional Coma' album is a little bit more clever with solutions."
Was the album a long length of time to record? Did you have any special guests on the new album?
"Well we recorded the new album in different sessions because we did some shows in between so it did take a little longer than we usually take. I think we started the album in February 2008 with the guitars and then the drums, keyboards, solos and vocals and then we mixed the album later on. We did have a special guest, it was Mike Romeo from Symphony X which was a pleasure to have him on the album, he's a fantastic guitarist!!"
Tell me a little bit about the Manowar tour you did, how did it come about?
"Well as I said earlier we did some arena shows with Manowar and we became friends and they liked the band so I think Joey seemed interested in having us on that tour, it was great tour!!"
Well will the band been doing any touring for the album?
"We had the opportunity to open up for Saxon & Iced Earth but we didn't have any t shirts made or we did have time to rehearse. We are however playing some headlining shows here in Sweden with different support acts in different cities, just local acts. We are playing with Covered Call and Bloodbound."
Well Lars, thanx for the doing the updated interview, was a pleasure speaking to you again. Take care and do you have anything to say before we come to a close?
"It was a pleasure speaking to you again Jason, it would be nice to finally meet one day (laughing). I'd like to thank our fans for their support and for sticking by us. Keep in touch with the band on Myspace OK."
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