Is this a life to Die for? Andres Andersen speaks out.
Royal Hunt are a band from Denmark that are no strangers to the world of Symphonic Metal, having been around since 89 by Russian keyboard wizard Andre Andersen, who came to Denmark to live out his dream as a musician. Having found Henrik Broackmann (vocals) Kenneth Olsen (drums), Jacob Kjaer (guitars) and Steen Mogensen (bass) the band released their debut album 'Land of Broken Hearts; in 92. In 95 vocalist Henrik was replaced by U.S. singer D.C. Cooper, who recorded the next album 'Moving Target' but soon left the band and was replaced by John West for the next album 'Fear' in 99. John had stayed with the band for a further 3 albums before his departure. He was replaced by Mark Boals, who recorded 2 albums before D.C. would return in 2011 for the next album 'Show me how to Live' in 2011.
The band recorded their new album 'A Life to Die For' in 2013 with members Jonas Larsen, bassist Andreas Passmark and drummer Allan Sorensen. I managed to catch the band live at Sheffield's 'Corporation Club' in March 2014 when I managed to pop a few questions with keyboardist Andre about the new album and how well the tour is going so far. Here is what he had to say.
Welcome to Sheffield UK, I hope the tour is going well so far. My 1st question is why has it taken you so long to get over to the UK?
"Well it's a pleasure been here finally, I really don't now why it has taken so long for us to get over here. I only see the tour plan when it is complete and we check the dates and countries we are playing and for some reason we didn't play London that much in the past or England in general. (Ed: 'It has nothing to do with lack of sales or interest then?). No not really, it maybe to some point but there are 100's of reasons and it depends on how promoters feel about the band and there are so many aspects you know. I do not get involved with that, I have enough on with looking after the band and that is left up to the management of the band to take care of that. Our management 'Majestic Entertainment' have been with us since day one really, they do a great job and we have been with them for over 20yrs and we are very happy wit the staff, especially our manager Michael."
How was the show last night in London?
"It was great, everything went well and the crowd were very enthusiastic but it wasn't packed or sold out but still the crowd enjoyed it and so did we. We played the Underworld before in 2008 I think with our old singer Mark Boals. A lot of people were singing along even to our new album which was a shock."
As a keyboard player, who are you're influences? Do they reflect within your music? Also if people like Beethoven was alive today do you think you would be working with him?
"Well I always mention 2 names, but there are many I also like but the 2 who have influenced me the most are Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Rick Wakeman (Yes) for different reasons, I always admired Rick's for his finesse and sense of melody arrangement and I also admired Jon for his personality and attitude of the progressive rock side of the keyboards. I like to combine the 2 musician's in my style with the aggressive and distortion. I also like Uriah Heep, Genesis.
I would say I am mainly into the Prog Rock era of keyboard players. I grew up playing classic music since I was 5 yrs old and that was my world and later on I discovered Deep Purple, Rush, Kansas, and bands like that. I think my music does reflect on those musician's, it varies from song to song and it is always based on classic rock arrangements with old elements and I think after 20yrs of been together I think we are quiet unique in a way. In today's music there are so many bands playing this style of music but when we started there were very few. If Beethoven was alive today I am sure we could record or tour together that would be fun (laughing)."
I see you not using any female singers on this tour as backing vocalist why? I hear that you are using Kenny Lubcke voice as backing vocals, how long have you known him and what do you think of him as a singer?
"Well we are doing a 3 week tour of Europe and the we fly to Australia, Japan, China, Russia and it is hard for us to get all the people together. It is also expensive for promoters to pay for all the people in the band. So we are playing this time to the bare minimum with just 5 of us. I have known Kenny since the mid 90's and he sang backing vocals on the album 'Paradox' back in 97. He is a great singer and a fantastic person, it's a pleasure working with him. Thank you Kenny for you're support and help!!!"
I was talking with John West you're former singer on Face book today and he told me that you and Allan will appear on his new solo album, please tell me more about this if you can?
"Yes we are, it is not finalized yet but I talked to John about it and some reason he wanted to record his vocals with me and he wants to come to Denmark and I will produce it for him. I can also record Allan's drums in my studio. The album will also feature Jeff Kollman and Steve DiGiorgio (Testament) and Allan is one of the best up there so why not? We both work well together so we will get the best out of the album when we record it."
So why did John West leave the band? Also why did D.C. leave the band, was it the fact he became a fire man?
"Well D.C. left because we could not agree on things back in 97-98 and we were very different people back then and we still are. We could not find a common ground within the band and I would not call it fighting but we just wanted different things and in the end we were getting on each others nerves. I don't think it was about leadership and the way that Royal Hunt is structured I started it back in the 80's and it was not a question of leadership it was more to do with the common vision for the final goal within the band. Some people are easy to work with and some are harder to work with. We got to a stage were we could not work together anymore on a personal level and we couldn't see eye to eye. It was a good thing that we went separate ways back then 98.
John is a completely different person, and he found his home within the band for 8-9 yrs and it was a great home for him. (Ed What did you think of Artension?). I think they were a great band but to be honest I am not really into these shred type bands, don't get me wrong there are a great band but it's not my cup of tea. They are a great band with great ideas and have been around for some time now. I never heard the band before we got in touch with John but Yngwie's old manager got in touch with our manager and suggested we should check out John as the new singer for the band. He tried out with Yngwie but it didn't work out but his manager thought it might be a good idea for us to try John out , so we did. We tried different guys to replace D.C. and when I 1st heard John's vocals I really wasn't into them, they didn't grab my attention at 1st. There was a song called 'The Key' and it had the Glenn Hughes type of vocals which really shone through and I then knew he was the 1 for the band. So we flew him over and we took him to the studio in my house and he sang a couple of lines on some of our songs and I knew he was the guy for the band. John left the band after the album 'Paper Blood', I think nature took its course and I think John wanted to become domestic again and was flying all over the place and I totally understood and we knew each other so well that he wanted to stay more in the U.S. and he is a very talented guy and he deserves all the success he gets.
We then had 3-4 yrs with Mark Boals, who also worked with Yngwie at some point. He is a great singer and has a different vocal range to that of John. Mark had other schedules and it was becoming harder and harder for us to play in the band together. When we had tours or festivals booked it became a drag and so I called him and said I don't think it's working out as we were not getting anywhere and he agreed and he is a great guy and we are still friends. So later on our manager told me that I should call up D.C. and ask him what he is up too. All the promoters liked the idea of a good reunion and so we did a couple of shows together. So we decided to play only the old material for the 1st tour just for the fun of it and so D.C. came to our rehearsal place and it was like back in 97 but this time both of us are older and wiser. It was a lot easier this time around."
What did you think of D.C.'s previous band 'Silent Force'? Did you like them?
"Well I heard 2 albums by them and 1 was the 1st one and the other was 'World's Apart' and it's like I told you before with Artention. I was something that I couldn't not imagine of been a fan of but it is well made with great musicians. In my option I didn't think D.C. fitted in the bands music, but then again 100's of people would disagree with me. I am totally fine with that. D.C. shines when he has space around him and when he was doing all this Rob Halford screams for me didn't suit him. He can actually sing better than a lot of people think, he is very talented and as a producer I know where to give him space so that it bring the best out of his vocals."
Looking back at the previous albums with ur band do you have any favorites or least favs?
"Well I would say the last one as I am more attached to it and in half a year it will change. I also like 'Collision Course' and it is not everybody's favourite. It is a very complicated album and I am very proud of it. I listened too it with headphones and I am surprised to how much is going on in that record. I also like the album 'Fear' as I think it is a very interesting album but I am not a big fan of 'Paradox' and everybody is saying it is our best. I think it is a very solid album but not 1 of my favourites. Talking about an album is like talking about ur children, which 1 do you prefer? It's hard to say really. They all have different personalities."
OK so let's talk about the new album, how long did it take to record this album?
"I would say it took about 8 months to record it and that included the writing. (Ed: Why did it take so long?) Well it is usually like that and it took a few wks longer than the regular album as some of the musicians have different ways of working. I write the whole album, the music and lyrics and it's not like a power play thing, it happened from the very beginning when I started the band and most musician's are writing the riffs and writing lyrics are as important as writing the music. D.C. may change some word here and there but it's me that write all the stuff. I will start a demo and then Kenny will come over and sing all the lead bits or melodies and then the guys will come in later on and listen too it so I give them parts for them to piece together their own ideas and the lines stay open for communications. So we then start to discuss things through Skype."
Why did you decide to call the new album 'A Life to Die For'? Did you have any other titles in mind?
"I did not have any other titles for the album and I usually have titles in my head for the next album but this time I didn't. It was the 1st time we tried all this classical instruments which worked really well. The title 'A Life To Die For' is very interesting which connected to all the songs together but the guy who actually point it out to me was the guy who did our covers. Did was doing different drawing and he had not even heard the album so I gave him titles and a few days later he called me and said 'Am I called the album 'A Life To Die For'? He said the title track summarizes the whole thing as he saw the lyrics. So he suggested it and I had this idea which was very rough at the beginning. So it symbolizes this kid on the left on top of the building in the beginning of his life and and the wolf on the right side of another building. It's like a symbol of his freedom and independence but between them is this dangerous dark city so he has to choose his path for a life to die for. It was an interesting thing playing with the title and lyrics and the opinion of the artist, which worked."
So which songs from the new album do you like and why?
"I love all of them, the title track is great but live we will not play the last part of it because it is very orchestral influenced so we are only playing the rock part of it. It goes down a storm and people are loving it. I also like the song 'Hell comes down from Heaven', which we are playing tonight. I think I was very luck with these songs on the new album."
Has the band or will the band be doing a promo video for this album and if so which song?
"No we have not done a video and I don't think we will do either. We did a lyric video with Allan our drummer did, he is great on computers. I really don't see the point in making big videos anymore? They are only shown on You Tube and they still cost money. We may do a live DVD and we are talking to a couple of companies right now about making a live DVD. This tour is in 2 parts, the 1st one we are doing now and the next one will be in October/ November. I would like to find a nice theater like we did in 2006 and I think for sales and concerts Asia is good for us, some places in South America are and Russia too & Japan."
So how are thing with you and Frontier Records so far , going well?
"Well you can't find a band who is totally happy with their label, it is not the record company's fault. Things are as they are with downloading, but so far with have been working with them since 2001 and I think they are doing their job."
You're on tour with my friends Cloudscape, how are you getting on with them and what do you think to their music?
"Well I met Mike the singer a couple of years ago and at some Whitesnake shows in Denmark and so we talked for a while and I know he was a nice guy and when I mixed the last album I was in Sweden and the same guy who worked in the studio also worked with Cloudscape. They played me their last album and they told me they needed some help with touring as a support band. It was all down to timing wise and we were about to go on tour and they were ready to support us. So I listened to some of their songs and they seemed ok to me. We are into 11 days of the tour and so far so good, and they are very nice guys."
Well Andre thanks for doing the interview do you have anything to say before we finish?
"Yes thanks to our fans for their support and coming out to the shows. We hope you like the new album."
Thanks to Gary for setting up the interview and to Royal Hunt for been coo, guys thanks.