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Ravenheart Music: Interviews

WINTER'S EVE INTERVIEW

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The music business can be quite strange. I listen to all types of music, and with Ravenheart Music opening up the world of female fronted rock and metal to me, I am aghast at the amount of unsigned female fronted talent out there. In the UK alone, we have the awesome Winter In Eden to name just one of several UK bands that for reasons best known to the labels themselves, get criminally ignored and therefore remain unsigned. Winter's Eve from London is a band that seem to have appeared out of nowhere with their debut release 'SHARDS', and is a band that should be raising a few eyebrows within the genre. If they aren't at the moment, I am quite sure it will only be a matter of time before they start creating quite a stir. I have decided to interview guitarist James from the band, more commonly known as Axeman Jim to his friends and fellow band members, to find out more about the band.

Can we be introduced to the members of the band?, and can you tell us how you guys & gals all came together and when?
Winter's Eve are myself and Pranay Chand on guitar, Storm on the bass, Lena on vocals and Klepsy (Dan) on drums. I began the project in the summer of 2008, and Storm was the first to join, followed by Lena, Klepsy and finally Pranay late last year. Since we started, we've been through quite a few changes – I always had the philosophy that we had to have the right people on board as well as getting the music right – so it's taken quite a while to get the band gigging as we've had to find the right formula – in the meantime that did give us plenty of time to work on the music and recordings, hence we can launch a full-length album at the same time as hitting the live circuit. It's served us well in the long run, we have the right combination of very skilled and experienced musicians who are also compatible in terms of personality.

And have any band members been involved with or are still involved in other ongoing musical projects?
Sure – I'm involved in Dan's doom metal band “Eye of Solitude”, who are already starting to make some waves despite not quite being at the gigging stage yet, Lena is in an electro-pop duo called “Hot Beds”, who are pretty successful around the Camden indie scene. Storm and Pranay do a great deal of session work, as do the rest of us, and we all have various solo and collaborative projects at various stages. I think this is the way of the modern musician – it's easier to record and perform than it used to be, but harder to make any money, so you involve yourself in more projects. It's artistically satisfying as well, you get to explore all the music that you are into.

'Shards' has taken me completely by surprise. Can you give us an insight into the recording process and the tracks that are on the album?
The tracks are quite a mixed bag in terms of how and when they were written. “Midnight” is the oldest track on the album, I wrote it nearly ten years ago and it was a really rough demo version of it that attracted Dan to the project. “Angel” is based on a song I wrote a few years back as well, but all the rest I wrote in concert with the band. “Spellbound” was the last to be written and the last to be finished; I wanted to create something a bit different and more progressive. Personally I'd like our future musical direction to be more like this, think of it as a teaser track for the second album! The genesis of the album was a little complex, we tried quite a few different approaches to production and had to start from scratch with the recordings a couple of times, but every time we had to do something again was an opportunity to do it better; we had quite a perfectionist attitude to it.

Where was the album recorded?
The album was recorded entirely at the home studios of the band's members. We didn't spend a penny in studio time, not even on vocals or drums, and that's something that we're very proud of. I believe that if you have a good ear, plenty of patience and acceptable equipment – it doesn't have to be amazingly expensive – then you can create something that can compete with any big-money release, at least in the rock and metal genres. That wasn't the case ten, or maybe five years ago, but we're fortunate enough to be recording in a time when the home studio can be genuinely competitive.

I am curious about the album's title...can you explain?
Well, there's a couple of layers to that, I guess. The song “Shards” itself is about a very controlling and oppressive relationship that Lena was in a few years ago, and it's about how she felt that her freedom, her independence and the things that made her happy, had been smashed into pieces, and it took her a very long time to pick them all up and put them back together. We chose it as an album title because there are so many emotions in the tracks – they represent the many facets of my and Lena's personalities. Some of the songs are strident, confident, some are angry, some are melancholy. We all hold all those feelings in ourselves simultaneously, it's like nobody has one psyche, it's always split into all these different facets – that was the inspiration behind the album art as well.

Do you have any fave tracks on the album?
Well “Image” is a track with a great deal of meaning for both me and Lena. I'd just broken up with my partner of 3 years and I'd had about 2 hours' sleep in 4 days, Lena had had some very bad news as well that week, and we just sat on her bed and let the song flow out from us, it kind of wrote itself. It was a very surreal experience! Then of course there's Pete Hartley's amazing violin solo. Pete and I are great friends, he's probably the most emotionally literate musician I've ever met, and he grasped the mood of the song perfectly. I remember when I first played it to Dan, he couldn't speak for about two minutes! Aside from “Image”, I'm very pleased with “Dust to Dust”, which was the first song I wrote after forming the band, but one of the last to be finished, because we had a few challenges recording and mixing it. It's a song with a great many moods to it, and I sat down and mixed it for three days straight until I got it sounding coherent! I guess it's my favourite from a production point of view.

And who/what are your musical influences?
Wow, there's a hole with no bottom! It's amazing actually, we're all into really different stuff, but this kind of music is where our tastes overlap just perfectly. I'm a huge progressive rock fan and a bit of a David Gilmour nerd, many people say my playing reminds me of him, and I take that as a huge compliment. Pranay is a neoclassical shred god, Storm loves progressive and power metal and Dan's into this mixture of frantic death metal and really dark, doomy stuff. Lena has a definite tendency towards the cheesy, despite her metal leanings – we've had to ban her from warming up with Beyonce songs! It genuinely all works together – often you see a band where the guys are all into different things and it fractures the music and then the band. That's not the case with us, we can all bring our music to the table, there's no snobbery here. Well, except for the Beyonce issue, obviously, some things are just beyond the pale, and someday I WILL persuade Dan to like Nightwish, even if I have to beat it into him!

The album is only available as a digital release at the moment. Are there any plans to release it physically?
Yes, there certainly are! It's just taking a little time to get the right manufacturers together, and shipping some stuff to the USA for distribution. Count on it in the next two months, I think.

Ravenheart Music has reviewed the album and given it a 9/10 on our website. I am aware that 'Shards' has only just been released, but has there been any other media reaction to the record so far?
You guys got in quick! So far your review is the first to surface, but everywhere we take the album the reaction we have gained has amazed us. We've been getting a great deal of radio play on places like Total Rock Radio and Top Rock Radio, and all kinds of offers from people who previously wouldn't have looked at us twice. For other people trying to get their music off the ground, I would definitely recommend that you put out a full-length album as soon as possible, it will open all kinds of doors for you and it won't cost the earth. We're right at the beginning of a very exciting journey, it's a great place to be especially after two years of work as we put the package together, though we know that the real hard graft has barely started.

And for those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it?
The word that everyone uses, without exception, when they hear us is “epic”! We like big songs, a huge sound, everything a little bit louder than everything else! I've always loved bands who could take beautiful melodies, songs with strong emotional impact and sensitivity, then use big guitars and strings to make them even more devastating. I've always loved a rich, saturated guitar sound – growing up I was into bands like the Smashing Pumpkins and the Deftones, and I wanted to emulate their huge guitar sound in a symphonic context. As well, of course, we all love the use of orchestral sounds in metal, so I've always aimed at combining those when producing our music – Lena's extraordinary voice is the high-point of that, of course, kinda like the snow-capped peak on a big, dark mountain of guitars and symphonics.

Lena has an awesome voice. Has she had any classical training?
She has had a great deal of choral experience, but if you're an alto like she is the classical world tends to regard you as a bit out of place. Her musical background is really in pop and rock, but, as I'm sure you can hear from the record, her voice is too powerful for that, it's got to be in metal really to do it any justice. I think her alto range is great, it makes us stand out from the genre a little, likewise her non-operatic voice is a little different, and that can only be a good thing.

An electric violin crops up on your record. You mentioned Pete Hartley earlier in this interview as being the violin player?
It is indeed! That's Pete Hartley, on “Image”, he's a jaw-dropping musician and a really great guy. It's an acoustic violin actually, he recorded it in a barn near his house to get natural reverb on it, he lives in this gorgeous little corner of Worcestershire next to a canal. I'm really jealous of his lifestyle actually! Next time we play in Birmingham, we're going to haul him out of the audience and have him play the solo with us. Pete's been at the top of the music business for 30 years, and he's been a huge help to us in all kinds of ways. It's great that he has shared his experience with us in the way that he has.

Regards the female fronted genre, what are your views? There are some good bands in the UK, and I sometimes feel that there is still a little prejudice against the female fronted rock and metal genre, particularly here in the UK. Would you agree?
It's not something that I've noticed particularly, not yet at least. It is true that you can name a top-level female-fronted metal band from just about every country in Europe except the UK, but I think it's only a matter of time before one breaks through – as you say there's some real talent out there. I think it is frustrating that sometimes all the female-fronted bands can get lumped in together, as if having a female up front defines the kind of music you play, but I hope that what we play isn't too cliched. When I was mixing the album, I was told by a few people that basically “if you don't sound like Epica you won't sell any records”, but we've been determined to go our own way. We love Epica, but we don't sound like them.

Musically, who or what are your musical inspirations, and what/who do you listen to when you are chilling out or relaxing?
I'm a massive, massive fan of Opeth; if Mikael Akerfeldt was alive three hundred years ago in Austria, he would have been one of the great classical composers, but he grew up in 1980's Sweden, so he applied that extraordinary compositional talent to metal instead. All his music blows me away, every time. Aside from that, I love Pink Floyd as I said earlier, and I'm getting quite a bit into trip-hop these days, it's great to chill out to. I'm really into any music that has some emotional depth to it – I think everyone in the band is like that, we all quite sensitive souls really, despite the hair and the tattoos, and you can hear that in our music, we put everything into our performances.

And what are your hobbies when not making music?
Don't get much time for other things these days! Though like any real goth, I'm a big nerd at heart. I'm forever fiddling around with my computer or slaying some kind of digital dragon. I also write a lot, but that's become more of a job than a hobby of late, it's great to earn money doing something you enjoy.

What band/artist would you just love to tour with and hang out with?
Well I met the guys from Lacuna Coil last year, you couldn't wish hang out with nicer people. They might also give us some fashion tips – they're by far the best-dressed band on the planet! Plus Lena is somewhat keen on their bassist... Touring with Nightwish would be fantastic as well, there's such a joy to them despite the traumas they've been through in the last few years. And, of course, Storm would pretty much sell all her internal organs for the chance to tour with Dream Theater, so they're right up in the list too!

And what are your band's plans for the future regards touring, and would you like to record another album if given the chance?
There's a few touring ideas in the pipeline, probably on the continent. Despite what I said earlier, it is true that the audiences for our kind of music is greater on the continent – in fact the metal scenes in places like Finland, Germany and Romania dwarf that in the UK. Domestically, we'll be looking to move outside the London gig scene for a bit and we've got some gigs lined up. We have already started putting some ideas together for the second album. Our lineup and creative process now is very different from when the first album's material was written – back then it was just me writing the songs then getting them hammered into shape in the rehearsal room. Now we have a settled line up of people who can bring all kinds of ideas and influences to the songwriting right from the start, and I'm very excited about that.

Well, thank you for your time and good luck in all your future endeavours. We at Ravenheart have fallen in love with 'Shards'. We wish you all the very best for the future, and if you are Birmingham way, please come and check us out. Finally is there anything that you would like to say to anybody across the world via this website?
Thank you very much indeed for the kind words and the opportunity to be featured here, it means a great deal to us. It's taken us nearly two years to get to this stage, a lot of hard work and a lot of heartache. It's great to finally see things finally coming together for us, we'd like to thank all the people who had faith in us and helped us out.

Check Winter's Eve out at www.myspace.com/thewinterseve because this band are gonna be big. You read it here first :)
Dave Smith (Jul 30, 2010)