We are the Blood Alliance - Steve William's speaks out.
UK Symphonic/ Power Metal act 'Power Quest' are no strangers to the underground metal scene, with keyboard wizard and master Steve William's moving on from his previous band 'Dragon heart' who soon became 'Dragon Force', Steve managed to find his own roots and path to form what is now best known as 'Power Quest'. Formed back in 2001 Steve along side Steve Scott decided to form this band, Scott was also with Dragon Heart and also Shadowkeep but left to pursue Power Quest with William's. In later years the band recorded their debut demo which was featured on the MP3.com site which soon saw the band been talked about. It wasn't long before Williams found Italian singer Alessio Garavello in 2002 and later on more Italian musicians would soon follow with Andrea Martongelli (guitars), Andre Bargmann (drums), who soon left and was replaced by session drummer Dave Mackintosh but soon Andre returned later on. The band have done such classic metal albums such as 'Wings of Forever' in 2002, 'Neverworld' 2003, 'Magic Never Dies' 2005, 'Master of Illusion' 2008 and now with the newest line-up 'Blood Alliance' which features vocalist Chitral Somapala (ex Firewind), along with drummer Richard Smith, Paul Finnie (bass), Andy Midgley & Gavin Owen (guitars) to create the band finest album. I Managed to chat with Steve and the rest of the band for the odd question when I visited their show in Sheffield (UK) in March 2011 as support to Symphony X. Here is what Steve and the boys had to say. In the meantime check out the album on Napalm Records now.
Let's start by asking you Steve why you have had so many different line-up changes in the past? A few musicians from Italy, why was that?
"Well the singer 'Alessio' didn't want to sing metal anymore, he is now doing Alternative Rock and Steve Scott the guy I started the band with is moved back to his home country of New Zealand and the guitarist Andrea, who had been with me for about 7yrs had the same problems I had with my previous band, his band is called 'Artamis', all his band members left so there was just him and me without bands, so he had to do what he had to do and carry his band on just like I had to do with Power Quest. In the end he didn't want to leave the band but he had no choice if he wanted to carry his own band on he had to move back to Italy. The drummer Francesco decided to leave as the rest of the band were from the UK and we were going to be UK based it didn't make sense for him to be flying over here for shows and rehearsals anymore. None of us do this on a full time basis, we all have to work, so it didn't make sense for these guys to stay in the band, it was time to move on. I am an I.T. Consultant and my boss is really cool about me been in the band with recordings and touring & he use to be a roadie for Status Quo in the in 70's, so he understands."
Let's talk about the debut album which pretty much got the ball rolling, 'Wings Of Forever' released by Underground Symphony Records, an Italian based label, how did that come about with the deal?
"I am not sure if that label is still going? They didn't have a lot of money towards tour support, advertising, and at that point Steve Scott and myself just wanted to do an album, so we took the opportunity to do the record and them moved on. Fair ground we have to thank the label for giving us the opportunity to do the album and take a chance on us so I am very grateful in that respect. The album did ok with sales wise, and we don't sell a lot of records and the problem is with the internet with the downloading aspect this destroying bands and labels. People in places like Mexico ask why bands don't play there and it all boils down to sales, no CD bought means no touring as the labels don't have the funds to pay for the tours and I think the industry needs to find a way to sort out this problem."
Which is your favourite past album you have done with the band & why?
"Well a lot of people say that their fav album is 'Neverworld' is the best CD, and I can see why to some point because it has a lot of classics like 'Temple of Fire', 'Edge of Time', but I like 'Magic Never Dies', but it's hard to say really. It's like saying which is your favourite child.
(R) "I like 'Magic Of Illusion' and 'Magic Never Dies' as there some really good songs on that album. (Ed: How did you hook up with Steve Rich?) Well a couple of years back I was in a band and we supported 'Power Quest' and he had a chat well before the older members left & as soon as I heard that the old drummer had left I had to contact Steve by email and I got a reply right away saying you have the job."
(P) "Well for me my favourite album has to be 'Magic Never Dies' and I also like 'Wings Of Forever' which I really like a lot, other than the new album. I have known Steve for 17yrs and about 7yrs ago I started helping them out on tour been their roadie and it really worked out and I ended up been stage manager for them and when the old members left Steve filled me in on the new and asked if I would like to join the band."
(G) "Well for me I found the band on 'Myspace' as they were advertising for a guitarist so I emailed them and told them who I was I went down and auditioned for the band & a couple of weeks later I got the job which is a great feeling even now. My favorite album was always 'Neverworld' because ever song on that album was great, but I do like them all like Rich said earlier."
C) "Well my favourite is the new one because I sang on it (Laughing), no really like 'Neverworld' and also 'Wings of Forever' because it is the very 1st album and I think that any band who releases their debut has to be their classic album. I also like some of the songs from the album 'Master of Illusion' & I think the songs on the new album are a lot different as they are more heavier and I am a different singer to that of Alessio, as he sang a lot more higher than me."
How did it all come about with Chity and you Steve hooking up together?
(C) "Well there's a kind of history behind that, we use to be in one project together with Dave Shankle group 'DSG', ex Manowar and that is how we met each other and we had met before that at the 'Prog Power - UK' and I had known Steve Scott the former bass player for a while & he sent me one of their CD's as a gift. Steve said we should do something together in the near future as a project but I had my own band 'Civilization One' & I had several problems with the record label so I called it a day with that band. So I was asked if I wanted to join Power Quest to which I said yes right away."
So Steve how did the title for the new album come about 'Blood Alliance'? Where there any other names in mind? What about the songs as well?
"Well the thing that tends to happen when I am writing an album is that the title of the album pretty much fires the whole album rolling really. With the new line-up they had created a very strong bond between each other very quickly and so I thought this was like a blood brothers kind of thing, a blood team and I liked the connection. So I came up with the name 'Blood Alliance' was really did suit the title of the album with the way things were going for the band so quickly. I had some lyrics that were based on the secret society it you know what I mean like Mason type stuff and I thought I could mix that theory in with the theory of the band. So to make a pretty interesting song out of that and that is were the idea came from. I had written about 4-5 of the songs before I had finalized the line-up and the whole album was pretty much done when Chity arrived and Andy had co-written 3 songs with me 'Blood Alliance', 'Crunching the Numbers' & 'City of Lies'. Most of the guys are involved with the arranging of the material and when I arrive they tell me they have the music or the lyrics or melodies and then we work together as a unit on them and take the best bits out of each song and work towards constructing a powerful song as a team effort. The title 'Rising Anew' almost became the new album title, and there are lines in that song were some journalist have written me off, (Ed: Am I in there ) No not at all mate, but there's no names mentioned, but there's a line in that song were it says 'They lie in Judgment and they think they know it all', but I shall leave their names out of it but they know who they are. There's also parts in that song that say how much we appreciate our fans for what they have done for us, and without those guys we are nothing. We have a song on their called 'Crunching the Numbers', which is about the recession and it is a very political song with parts that sound like Dream Theater with a lot of time changes, something we haven't done much of in the past. Then we have songs like 'Better Days' a real Stadium type song and a lot of us are fans of bands like Toto, Journey, etc..."
OK Steve we have so many types of styles of metal music, how would you describe your music?
"Well it's just melodic Metal, maybe Power Metal and if it doesn't have melody then I'm not interested."
So where was the new album recorded and how long did it take to record?
"Well we changed studios this time around. We had always recorded at 'Thin Ice' studios in the past with Karl Groom (Threshold) but we thought new band new studio. So went to a residential studio in the middle of nowhere and we just locked our self's away for 3 and half weeks and worked for about 15hrs a day. We worked with Chris Fielding, who is a great producer and he works with people like Napalm Death, much heavier bands and I think he has given us a more heavier guitar sound and certainly a more heavier drum sound then we have ever had before. (Ed: Will you be using him again for the next album?) Yes I would be very tempted to go back to be honest and we had a great time there. I couldn't recommend the place highly enough as everything we needed was there, beautiful countryside. It took us only 3 & half weeks to record the album and we are very pleased with the end results. It took 2 wks to mix and 2 days to master the album."
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
"God no, every song on the album is perfect for us and when we play live it is now becoming difficult to pick the songs for the set list. We want to do a 50/50 split between the old material and the new stuff. I think we will have to change the set list each night to keep everybody happy within the band as we will be playing 7 songs from the new album each night."
Tell me a little bit about the artwork for the album, it's a great cover. It was done by Blind Guardian artist Felipe Machado Franco, how did that come about?
"Well he did the artwork for the 'Master Of Illusion' album too. We got along with him really well so I contacted him again and asked if he was up for doing the new album to which he agreed. We worked very closely with this album, as I had a concept in mind and so I did my basic artwork and sent them to him and he managed to interoperate it out of my head and get 80% of the artwork. So there were a few files exchanged through the internet until we both agreed on the right choice for the artwork. I think he has done a perfect job, and I love looking through booklets on CD's and this one just looks great."
Are you happy with your label Napalm records?
"Yes we are, I wasn't sure if they were into the last album much but on this album they are backing us 100% & they thought the new album was amazing and they have been totally supportive on this one, with tons of interviews, advertising, and we have been getting good reviews so far for this new album."
Did the album feature any special guest on the new album?
"Well yes we had one guest, his name is called Nick Workman, he is in a AOR band called 'Vaguer' and was also in a band called 'Kick' in the 90's and he did backing vocals on the songs 'Better Days' and 'Only In My Dreams'. I didn't want to have loads of guest on this record like we did on the last one because when you have a new line-up you don't want a load of guest on the album too. I think guest musician's should be on there for a good reason, which is not only to put a sticker on the album to make you sell more albums. That is not art to me, it is marketing which is ok if you want to do it, but its not really the right choice for me."
Will there be a promo video for this album with the reviews & label been so positive about the new album? If so which song?
"I have made some enquires but like I said it all comes down to money and if there are enough pre-sales then yes we may do a video. The thing with the tour with Symphony X is that I am funding it, the costs of the van, the fuel and pretty much everything really. We don't get a thing from this tour, it's all down to merchandise that is were we make our money."
In your career Steve what bands have you played with in Power Quest?
"Well we have played with Pagan's Mind, Helloween, Dream Evil, Labyrinth, Threshold, Tara, Angra, Firewind, and many more bands really."
So how's this tour with Symphony X going so far? Have you been getting positive support by your fans as well as Symphony X fans?
"Its been going really well, there a great bunch of guys, very friendly and they make you feel very welcome with no rock star bullshit attitude. Great musicians!! It's Brilliant we cant complain."
Well I'd like to thank you all for the interview, best wishes for the future and the sales of the new album. Do you have anything to say before you hit the stage?
(C) "Thank you!!"
(G) "If you like the sound of the album then please buy the album, it's a great album."
(P) "I'm just looking forward to a good year with the band."
(R) "Yes please support us and buy the album, you won't be disappointed."
(S) "I'd like to thank the fans, I almost quit the band, it was a tough year for me but I've survived and I'm back with a great new line-up. Thanks for the interview Jason, always a pleasure meeting you. Thanx to the fans as well."
Thanks to Napalm Records for the interview & the band.