Thursday, August 14, 2014

XANDRIA - The U.S. Invasion Looms Near!


Here we are with another NEW interview - conducted in June 2014 - to coincide with the upcoming Xandria, Delain, and Sonata Arctica US tour (starting September 9th)!

New Dutch lead singer, Dianne van Giersbergen (no relation to Anneke), took the time to talk about the band, the upcoming tour, and their new release, "Sacrificum".



EA:  Greetings Dianne!  Eclectic Arts is based out of Seattle, WA.  Have you ever been to the States (professional or personal)?  If so, where have you traveled here? 

DvG:  Hi Mark! And thank you for your time and support! I am really looking forward to crossing the Atlantic and visiting the States in September/October. Ever since Xandria visited Miami in January to board the 70.000 Tons of Metal festival I have fallen in love with your country!

EA:  We here in the US are looking forward to Xandria's first US tour (with Delain and Sonata Arctica)!  Are you looking forward to the tour?  What can US fans expect?  How long will your set be?

DvG: Oh yes I am looking forward to this! It will be our first US tour so we are super excited about the whole adventure. We have the honor of opening the evening every night, greeting and warming up the audience and introducing them to our music. But of course being first on the bill also means playing a shorter set, no clue yet on how long it will be.

EA:  You joined Xandria in October of 2013.  Is that correct?  If so, how did you come to join the band?  Did you audition?  What was the process like?

DvG: Correct, in October we released the news that Manuela had decided to leave the band and that I would step in as Xandria’s new singer. Of course by then we had already set things in motion and had taken the time to get to know each other, see if we could hit it of music wise but also on a personal level.
The story of me joining began when Xandria had already entered the ‘Sandlane Studio’ in the Netherlands to work with producer Joost van den Broek. Recordings had already started when Manuela announced to the band that this wans’t for her anymore. Joost was the one who at that point told the band that he might know a singer fitting the profile and able to step in on short notice.
And so I got a call from Xandria’s manager, traveled to Germany to meet the guys and shortly after that began the challenge of learning the live songs and the new songs which we now know as the ‘Sacrificium’ songs.

EA: With the new album, "Sacrificium", was the material already written when you joined the band?  Did you have a hand in any of the vocal melodies/lyrics or was everything pretty much already set?

DvG: I think you could say that all the songs were finished for 98%. When Marco and I traveled to Sascha Peath’s ‘Gate Studio’ (near Wolfsburg, Germany) we set out for 9 days of recording-marathon. In these dates we took some freedom to adjust the vocal lines to the color of my voice so that they could really blossom. But this was of course more a case of fine tuning. A process which is by the way very familiar to me: as a classical singer I am used to sing music that has not been written purely for me. Singing these and also the already written Xandria compositions is sort of a game for me where I try to and follow the instructions given by the composer as best as I can, try to reach the best vocal technical translations of the music notes and find my freedom in interpreting the songs and lyrics.
Lyric wise I contributed 2 songs to the album. The lyrics to ‘Little Red Relish’ and ‘Sweet Atonement’ are written by me.

EA: You have your other band Ex Libris.  Please tell us more about Ex Libris and how it differs from Xandria.

DvG: Yes I do! Ex Libris is my baby. I founded the band 10 years ago and since then it has developed into a symphonic progressive metal band of which I am very, very proud. The music Ex Libris composes is a combination of 5 skilled musicians sharing and mixing their talent, views and technical capabilities. I think our music is really addictive but you do need to give it a few spins to be able to reach our state of ecstasy.
Xandria and Ex Libris share me as their front woman and thus the vocal sound will have its overlap and to say it plainly: the promotion pictures will show me and four men. But then you have named it all. Xandria’s music is much  more composed from a set up musical view, Ex Libris’ music is born through improvisation. Xandria has one main composer (Marco Heubaum), Ex Libris bandmembers all represent a part of the composition. Xandria’s live shows are accompanied by taped orchestral en choir parts, Ex Libris’s live shows are 100% live. And so on.
Both band represent a part of me, of who I am and being front lady of both makes me a very happy and privileged singer.  

EA:  I read that you studied voice in college.  Your website also states you are a vocal coach.  What is it about the voice as an instrument that you love?  What is your earlier vocal background (did you take lessons, etc)?

DvG: I received my first singing lessons as a birthday present from my parents when I turned four. In the following years I was taught by various music teachers and sang in several choirs. In 2005 I started my studies in classical music at the ArtEZ school of music where I was taught by Elena Vink. On the 19th of May 2009 I rounded off my Bachelor’s with distinction and continued to study for my Master’s degree. For this Master I studied how to intermingle classical music with metal music, I wrote a thesis about composing and performing within this cross-over and for my graduation recital composed a program in which I eventually fused these two genres.
For me the voice has always been the perfect instrument to translate who I am. When I run out of words to vent my emotions I can just start to sing and deal with it that way. I believe that this is a gift and that’s one of the reasons why I love being a vocal coach, I think that if you have a talent that you must share it and if you can, teach it to others.

EA:  You've performed live with both bands.  How have the recent Xandria shows gone so far?  What songs in the set list do you enjoy performing the most?

DvG: Every song has some special element in them. Some are technically challenging others are special because they are soothing for the voice, but I cannot say that I prefer one over the other.
As for the shows: I really enjoy being on stage, having fun with the guys and sharing our party with the audience. I thinks the audience sees that we have fun because on our headline tour the response just has been overwhelming positive.

EA:  On a random note, is your last name (van Giersbergen) a common last name in the Netherlands (like Smith or Jackson is here in the US)?  Just curious since many that like Xandria know Anneke van Giersbergen.

DvG: It may be a bit more common in the South of the Netherlands where Anneke and I both come from. But us both being in this genre and having the same last name is just coincidence.

EA:  Who would you like to sing a duet with (from any genre)? 

DvG: Oooh that’s a difficult question. Well for Ex Libris I have recorded a duet with Damian Wilson(Threshold, a.o.) which was great fun. Live we have performed this duet with Valerio Recenti (My Propane) which was also great fun.
I think that it doesn’t matter which whom I share the stage as long as they are up to having as much fun as I have performing.

EA:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me Dianne.  I'll be at the show in Seattle (club is called El Corazon).  See you in September!

DvG: Well then I look forward to seeing you at the show! And let me thank you for your time and interest in me. Your and every one’s support in me and both my bands is what makes it able for me to be the singer I am today, thank you!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

An attempt to clarify all that I do! - Mark


Since Eclectic Arts has been "revived" with weekly new interviews, I've been getting emails and messages regarding the difference between the print VS blog, Seattle Next Door, Train Wreck, etc.  So here's my attempt to demystify everything.

Eclectic Arts started out as a print only magazine in 2011.  I created this blog to update everyone on the progress of each issue, ordering information, etc.

Due to unforeseen financial issues, after issue 3, EA the print version, went on hiatus basically.  In the mean time, I was still conducting interviews, fully expecting to fix the financial situation and continue putting out new print issues.

Well, that clearly never happened.  I ended up sitting on a lot of great content which bothered me to no end.  So the vault interviews were fully intended to be in the print version of EA.  But, for now, I am releasing that content so people can finally read it. 

There are full transcript interviews, in depth ones, that will either go into issue 4 or on the blog.  I'm leaning more and more toward putting everything out on the blog just to get all of it out there.  Then whatever new interviews I do will go a fresh beginning in issue 4.

So, that's the nutshell behind Eclectic Arts.


Seattle Next Door - this is my photography work for the past nine years.  Anything you see in EA that has the SND copyright is my work.  I am a published photographer with an emphasis on model based photography.  95% of my work is model portfolios with the other 5% being the occasional senior photo, family photos, etc.


Train Wreck (WA) - this is the duo Sara and I started in March of 2013 and ended in December of 2013.  We did our first gig as a warm up jam, just to see how this Train Wreck thing would or wouldn't work.  We played from 1-4 gigs each month of our existence.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of work.  With the new year, we decided to take a break, and to revisit it when it felt right. 

Well, it feels right as we are planning on performing again in August and September of this year.  After that, we are going to play things by ear. 

Sara is in a terrific new soul/blues band called Little Sara and The Night Owls so she is already busy musically, let alone with her jobs.

So we're looking for balance this time around with Train Wreck - that way it'll stay fun!


Besides EA, SND, and TW, I hold down two jobs now - one FT, one PT.  I'm still active in the beer scene here in Seattle.  I attend sporting/live events when I can.  And somewhere in there is a social life.

Questions?  Let me know.  I'd be happy to answer any that you throw my way.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Driven - Anneke van Giersbergen Interview!


On this SeaFair Sunday here in Seattle, it is in the 80's (as it has been all week) and it's time for the next interview from the vaults.

Anneke van Giersbergen is one of my favorite vocalists period.  Not favorite female vocalist.  Not favorite rock vocalist.  Favorite period.  The interview below was brief but conducted in 2012 (March to be exact).

As always, everything was left in tact.  Anneke is touring for her latest release, "Drive" right now (hence the title of this interview).

She is also partaking in the "Sirens" tour with Liv Kristine and Kari Rueslatten!



I have been a music junkie since I was a little kid.  From the age of nine, seeing KISS for the first time in 1979, it was all down hill after that concert.  From the ups and downs that life throws at you, music has always been there for me.

One of my all time favorite vocalists, Ms. Anneke van Giersbergen, is one of those artists that I put on a pedestal.  The music she created with her former band, The Gathering, helped me through some confusing and difficult times in my past.  The power and beauty of her voice just transported me to a different place in my mind during my struggles.  It was a release of the most needed kind at the time.  For that, I am forever grateful. 

I was fortunate to see her with The Gathering here in Seattle, WA (the only time they ever played Seattle) before she left to pursue her own career and spend more time with her family.  Anneke has been creating amazing music on her own since 2007 with her solo work and collaborations with other talented musicians and projects.

It is truly my pleasure to present Ms. Anneke van Giersbergen here in Eclectic Arts.  I can't believe I get to write that!  ^_^

EA:  Greetings Anneke!  Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.  I can't express just how much this means to me.  I've been a fan since 1997.  I know you are out supporting your newest album, "Everything Is Changing".  How are the shows going?  How does it feel to be back out on the road? 

AvG: Thank you Mark! I’ve just completed a 15-date Dutch club tour and it was fantastic. Venues were packed and I’m very proud of my new live band. We have a lot of fun and luckily we are able to transmit that to our audience. I’m glad to be back on the road again. We’ll do a big EU-tour in May and since my son is now old enough to go on the road with us, there’s hardly any reason wanting to go home again.

EA:  I was just listening to "Everything Is Changing" again this afternoon.  It is such a solid album.  Usually there is at least one song or two that I find with any release that don't quite measure up.  Not so with "Everything Is Changing".  From beginning to end, the album makes such a strong statement.  How do you feel about the album now that it's been out for a few months?  What was the writing/recording process like for the album? 

AvG: I’m very happy with it. Of course I’m glad it’s doing so well, it got to #11 in the mainstream charts in The Netherlands - which is higher than I’ve ever been in my career – but way more importantly it ended up sounding the way I hoped it would do. After working with Devin Townsend a couple of times in recent years I realized I wanted to do a multi-layered album with lots of energy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to transfer my own ideas into arrangements myself without the help of a multi-instrumentalist, so I’m very glad I found Portuguese producer Daniel Cardoso who helped me writing and recording the album. I have my own studio, which is where we recorded most of the drums and vocals and I went to Portugal to work in Daniel’s studio.

EA:  "Everything Is Changing" has a polished sound without sacrificing the emotional nature of your music.  Some of the songs are more pop oriented, while others are still very introspective.  Was this intentional?  What lyrical topics did you cover on the new record?

AvG: I’ve tried to combine all styles that I like to listen to myself into one album. I like heavy music, but also emotional stuff and I like to dance as well, if you know what I mean. I love Madonna just as much as A Perfect Circle and somehow I think that we’ve been able to let that resonate throughout the songs. Most of the times I don’t consider myself as a story-telling lyricist. I write about myself most of the time and my own feelings. I wrote ‘My Boy’ for my son and for instance ‘Circles’ deals with the fact that some people can maintain their rock-steady characters when tragedy strucks.

EA:  How have you managed to strike the balance between your music career and your personal life (family, etc)?   I know your husband performs with you, which obviously helps, but still it must be difficult.  Does your son travel with you as well?  You're a very busy woman!

AvG: It’s hard and it takes a lot of planning, that’s for sure! First of all I moved to the countryside to be able to build a recording studio and to be able to store our stage equipment at home. That enables us to work at home most of the time. I quite doing long tours. It’s 2 weeks max unless I can take my son with me like the upcoming EU-tour. I take my son with me as many times as possible, but of course he has to go to school, so we have this really complicated schedule with nanny’s and so on.

EA:  Back in 2007, I was fortunate enough to see you perform with your old band The Gathering here in Seattle, WA at a little club.  Within Temptation were also on the bill that night that you've performed with (the "Somewhere" duet with Sharon is awesome by the way).  When you look back at those US shows, playing clubs and such, what stands out for you?  Did you enjoy the shows?  What are some of the differences between touring in the US and abroad?

AvG: Well, touring the US for a niche-band is hard. Physical distances are big and transatlantic flights for band and crew are expensive. That’s the only reason I haven’t been able to return to the US as a solo artist. I have a small but strong fan base in the US, so I hope I can return in the near future and do a string of acoustic solo shows in small clubs or something. I think that would be awesome!

EA:  It's been five years now that you've been a solo artist.  When you look back on your years with The Gathering, what comes to mind?  What memories stand out (good or bad)?

AvG: To be honest I’m not a person that looks back a lot, I don’t particularly enjoy watching YouTube videos with old footage or something like that. I’m all about looking forward and even more importantly the present day. However I have great memories from my time with The Gathering. Those boys are still very dear to me.

EA:  I've been a musician myself for quite a number of years (guitar being my main instrument).  I took vocal lessons for a bit, too.  What advice would you give someone who is looking to be a vocalist?  Is it true you do vocal coaching when you have the time?  I could use a lot of help with my voice haha

AvG: The advice I would give to anybody is be yourself and look for your own voice. There’s a lot of vocal talent, you only have to watch a couple of all those talent shows to notice that, but I hear a lot of people sing like the people that they are inspired with. I love Ella Fitzgerald, but it never occurred to me to copy her phrasing and stuff.
I worked as a vocal coach at the Amsterdam Conservatory for 1.5 years, but I had to quit because it was too time consuming and I couldn’t combine it with my busy schedule anymore. I loved doing it though!

EA:  What goals do you have for the future?  Do you see yourself making music for many years to come or are you just taking it one day at a time?  Are there other things you want to try outside of music?  What else is coming up that the fans can look forward to?
AvG: I never have a long term plan, but I am a musician and there’s not a whole lot I would like to do that’s not music-related. I would like to record another album soon and I would like it to sound more or less like my last album, but even better of course!!
I’m also involved with a children’s theatre play at the moment. I co-wrote the music and I’m performing in it, so I get to do a little bit of acting, which is very fun to do.

EA:  Anneke thank you again for taking the time to do the interview today.  I truly appreciate it!  Take good care.

Thanks Mark, good luck with your magazine and hope to see you in the US one day!
With love,
Anneke XxX

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Introducing: Jennifer Kim!

Greetings one and all!

Here's a first for Eclectic Arts.  There is a phenomenon going on where YouTube is being used as a launching pad for many amateur artists to show their talent, gain fans, and perhaps even launch a career.  I happened upon a video of someone covering the Nightwish tune, "Dead Boy's Poem" and I was like whoa - who is this girl?

Some of the cover tunes I like better than others but you can definitely hear (and see) how talented this young artist is.

Those loyal readers of EA know that I support demo bands (remember demo TAPES?), those just starting out, etc.  If I hear potential, then my curiosity gets piqued, and then I'm off to the races.

I'd like to introduce the EA world to Ms. Jennifer Kim.  And right now is when the EA readers say, "who?"  Who indeed - read on.

Jennifer is a talented singer, musician, and songwriter, among other things.  She has been accepted to the Berklee School of Music this Fall (see crowd funding campaign at the end of the interview on how you can help).

This is her first interview conducted during July of 2014.  If I'm any judge of talent, it won't be her last.  ^_^

Eclectic Arts

EA:  Greetings Jenn!  Let's start at the beginning.  Where were you born?  Raised?  Currently reside?  What were you like as a child growing up?

Jenn: Hi Mark! I was born in Maryland and I’ve pretty much spent my entire life there up to now. Although, the usual response to that statement is, “Where are you really from” -  well, my mom is Thai, and my dad is Korean, so I guess you could say I’m half Thai and half Korean. I was a very mischievous kid, getting into all sorts of innocent trouble. I think that was due to my very curious and adventurous nature, always straying away from my parents when we were out, or venturing farther from our yard than was allowed.

EA:  When did you get involved with music?  What was your first instrument?  Have you taken lessons for voice, piano, etc?

Jenn: It was when I was still pretty young when I started playing piano. My parents had signed me up for private lessons with Debbie Gerrity, who would turn out to be my piano teacher for the next 12 years. It was with her that I gained the majority of my musical knowledge. When I was 11, I started playing the viola at school, and continued to play through middle and high school, although I never took any lessons for it. During high school was when I was the most involved with music. I was in almost every music ensemble I could be in – the symphonic orchestra, marching band, the jazz ensemble – and I played in several different county orchestras and bands as well. As for voice lessons, I took classical singing lessons for about a month last summer, which helped me a little, but I think what makes me improve my singing the most is just constantly singing, recording, and listening to my own voice.

EA:  Who are some of your early music influences (instrument, voice, etc)?

Jenn: While I was taking piano lessons growing up, I played a lot of classical music. My favorite pieces were by Rachmaninov and Beethoven, because I tended to like very powerful, dramatic, and emotional pieces. And although I didn’t play the music myself much, I think I was greatly influenced by video game music. Those songs that you hear while playing games when you’re younger stick with you even when you grow up. And it brings out a very special happiness from you. One of my favorite games, along with the music, when I was younger was PacMan World 2. I have so many good memories playing that game with my younger sister.

EA:  How did all of this You Tube work start for you?

Jenn: I remember seeing a cover video for the first time (it was of a Nightwish song), and I just felt like doing one myself. And there you go – my first video on YouTube. It would be quite a while until I uploaded my next video, another Nightwish cover. And after that, I kind of forgot about my channel for a while. It was in the summer of  2011 that I received a message in my YouTube inbox from another YouTube musician, Joe Atlan (who’s now my boyfriend!), saying that he wanted to help me in improving my channel. At first, I took it as kind of a spam message, so I initially ignored it haha! But some months later, I finally replied, and we started talking on Facebook. Since the beginning, he’s been my greatest support, encouragement, and source of inspiration. Without him, I would’ve never continued to make more videos. It’s because of him that my channel has been continuing to grow through time, so everyone can thank him for that!

EA:  For those old farts like me that are still fumbling our way through YouTube, what specifically did Joe do to help you improve your YouTube Channel?  Help me understand this YouTube phenomenon better.

Jenn: Haha it’s not that complicated once you know what you’re doing. I had no idea about how to market my videos or make my videos better. He gave me advice on things like tagging videos, which is very important when trying to gain your audience. You have to think about what people will search for, and how you’re going to direct the intended audience to your videos. He also gave advice on things like titling videos, what songs to cover that would be more successful, popularity and view wise, and technical things like audio and lighting. He also made me my channel banner, which I’ve kept until this year.

EA:  Some of your videos on YouTube are symphonic or progressive metal artists (Symphony X, Nightwish, etc).  What draws you to those bands?

Jenn: The first of those bands that I fell in love with was Nightwish. Up till then, I had never heard any music like it. I thought the combination of the band’s instruments, orchestral sounds, and Tarja’s operatic vocals was so beautiful and unique. The other bands that I’ve covered on my channel, like Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Blind Guardian, were all introduced to be by Joe, who has the MOST amazing taste in music. But then again, when you really can feel and understand music, it’s not that hard to hear pure beauty and art. I think in the genre of progressive metal is where I hear the most creative and boundary-pushing elements. And that’s what I think is one very important aspect to creating good music, not being inhibited by anything, such as what “genre” of music you are making. Another thing that draws me to those bands is that you can just hear how they are deeply connected to and passionate about their music. The artist is very ingrained into his own art, so his motivations are very important, as they are reflected in the music.

EA:  Has there been any cons to starting the YouTube page, uploading your videos, etc?  (like criticism from family, stalker types, etc?

Jenn:  I can’t really think of any negative things that have come from starting a YouTube channel. Of course, there will always be people who criticize your content, or just down-right insult you for no reason, but I think it’s a good thing to be able to not take those words too seriously, or let them bring you down. Seeing so many of those kinds of comments has made me stronger and more able to just ignore it and move on. I feel more sorry for those people because if that’s what they spend their free time doing, they must really not have anything else better to do. But the rest of the comments and feedback are so important to me. It lets me know I’m doing some things right, as well as where I should improve. The greatest thing about starting my channel of course was that it brought Joe to me, who is helping me be closer to my dreams and the person I want to be.

EA:  What are your dreams and aspirations?

Jenn: I think in the most general words, my dream is to be able to create and share music that reaches people deep within, that makes them relate to what they’re hearing. I want to create music that I feel the most connected to, music that comes from the very depths of my soul. And of course, I want as many people as possible to be able to experience the music I create. I just want to try and be the best musician and composer that I can be and put my heart and soul into creating music.

EA:  You're headed to Berklee to study music (congratulations by the way J  ).  What aspect of music will you be studying?  What do you hope to accomplish at Berklee?

Jenn: Thank you so much! I’m so excited about it. I plan on studying Film Scoring there, and minoring in Video Game Music. At Berklee, I just want to take advantage of all the opportunities that I’ll have and all the amazing musicians I will get to meet and work with. Berklee is, in my opinion, the best music school in the world that truly prepares you for a career in the music industry. And I plan on treating my time there as if it was the real music world because the professors teaching there have experience working in the music industry, and the students going there with me will eventually be working as well, so networking and professionalism will be a priority.

EA:  Do you have any favorite film composers?

Jenn: I think anyone who loves film soundtracks will say John Williams. He is an unbelievable composer, whose music is very diverse and unique. In the realm of video game music, I love Jeremy Soule’s work, particularly for some of the Elder Scrolls games. It just make the games’ atmosphere that much more magical. Of course I also really like Nobuo Uematsu, famous for his work with the Final Fantasy games.

EA:  What do you want to do once you're finished with college at Berklee?  

Jenn: I really want to write music for video games eventually. I think most people have experienced the magic of a video game, and how they can teleport you to another world. They make you experience something special, and they make you feel what a movie can make you feel, except it pushes it even further by adding a level of interactivity. And I think the music in a game is such an important element to that experience. It connects you to and expresses that world in a way that sticks with you long after you’ve stopped playing. Most people might not think of it this way, but video games are ART.

EA:  For those readers that aren't gamers, can you describe how video games are art in your opinion?

Jenn: Well, what makes art? Art comes about from a creative force within the souls of humans brought out through their skills and capabilities. Video games contain elements of what most people would consider “art” – visual media and music. The people who make video games are dedicated to their work. Their sole aim is for the experience of the player. They put so much into the details that will enhance the expression of what they want in that game, through how the setting and landscapes are, how the character looks, how the character interacts, and of course, how the music plays into the game. A truly good video game can have a big impact on you, especially while you are experiencing it yourself. Maybe when people are younger, they can’t appreciate video games for everything they are, but as they get older, I think most realize the profound effect and beauty of them.

EA:  So will you be working on the performance aspect of music (like playing live on stage, etc) or will you solely be focused on composing for video games?  It seems like it would be a shame if we didn't get to hear more of Jenn the performer VS Jenn the video game music composer. 

Jenn: Yeah, I’m definitely interested in developing as a performer, particularly, as a singer. If possible, I want to be able to take classes and lessons in singing at Berklee, just because I know that with the guidance of experienced professors and professionals, I can improve a lot more quickly and efficiently. Singing makes me feel something I don’t feel when I’m playing piano. There is a certain presence about being a singer, after all, that’s why singers are the “front men” of bands. They are the ones that connect the most with the audience and viewers. It’s also a position that could make you feel a bit more vulnerable than playing an instrument. It’s yourself that’s the instrument, and there’s nothing between you and the audience. But I think overcoming that vulnerability can feel quite exhilarating and freeing.

EA:  So, where do you take your YouTube channel from here?  Will you continue uploading videos once you're at Berklee or will the be put on hold?

Jenn: I definitely will continue uploading videos while I’m attending Berklee. If I study voice there, it’ll be another outlet where I can practice what I’m learning and document my progress, which my YouTube channel has been for me thus far. I would never consider stopping uploading videos. I feel almost as if it’s a small part-time job, a one that I love a lot, and feel very committed to. So yeah, you’ll be continuing to see videos from me : )

EA:  Have you and Joe collaborated on a video that's on your YouTube Channel?  What song would you like to collaborate on in the future?

Jenn: We have one song on my channel that we’ve done together (his own arrangement of Scarborough Fair), but on his channel, we’ve done quite a few together, such as covers of music from the Hobbit, Hearthstone (a Blizzard game), as well as his own original music. So far, we’ve mostly done more calm and serene music. I think I’d like to do something on a more epic and grand scale with him. Because I know what he’s capable of, I know it would be indeed very EPIC.

EA:  Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Jenn.  The last words are for you.

Jenn: Thank YOU for your interest in interviewing me. This is actually the first interview I’ve ever done related to music and my YouTube channel. It’s been a good chance for me to access myself, what I’ve done, and where I’m going. As an artist, I think there’s a lot more for me to improve on and to explore. Well, artists are on a perpetual path of improvement and exploration. Maybe all people in general. But I really feel I’m on the right path now and I’m excited for whatever the future holds for me. Thanks again, Mark!

Editor's Note:

Jennifer started a funding page to help her with the additional costs of attending a prestigious school like Berklee.  Even after securing a major scholarship, she still needs help for certain gear the college requires, etc.  Check out her page at:
Every donation received (broken down by $ amount) receives something in return (all listed in detail on the page).  She is currently just over $500 on her way to her very reasonable goal of $2000.  Let's help this talented musician get there!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Majesty Eternal - Eternal Majesty Interview

On this gray and showery Sunday, it seemed appropriate to publish a black metal artist's interview.  EA Issue #1 featured two black metal bands (among other artists) so it's kind of like going back to my roots to feature a black metal artist.
The horde in question, Etermal Majesty, hail from France.  Read on - as is - from 2012.

From War To Darkness - those in the underground know this release from the mighty Eternal Majesty (France)!  Having put out several demos, splits, and a live release prior - Eternal Majesty's first full length exploded on the scene back in 2003.  The follow up, 2006's "Wounds of Hatred and Slavery" showed a change in label and sound.  The last four years have been quiet on the Eternal Majesty front.  That is about to change!  - Interview by Mark

EA:  Greetings!  Instead of starting at the beginning, let's start with the present.  What is the current state of Eternal Majesty?  Are you still signed to Candlelight?  It seems after your sophomore effort, the band fell off the black metal map.  Please bring us up to date.

T:  Hi Mark!  Thorgon here.

Yes, we are very busy since this period with Candlelight records and we put EM on standby for different reasons.
Sagoth and I with our other bands, Martyr and Navint for other personal stuff.
I think we were also fed up with the Black Metal scene after recording the second album, but now after all this time we are ready to come back this year (2011) with a new record, nothing is signed for the moment so I cant tell you anything about the label.

EA:  After playing the shit out of "From War To Darkness", I found "Wounds of Hatred and Slavery" a bit of a let down.  There are moments where it sounds like Eternal Majesty to me but there are parts that are just uninspired.  When you look back on those two releases, now that some time has passed, what are your thoughts about both of them?

T:  The second album is less brutal and hateful than the first one, we wanted to make something more technical and more ambient than we did before. We also had problems during the recording and even today we are not satisfied with the "Wounds of hatred..." sound.
You can expect another evolution of the band for the next one.  We will see how people will react.  The only thing I can tell you is that we will not make the same mistakes that we did before for this new recording.

EA:  I understand that "From War To Darkness" featured re-recordings of demo material.  Is this correct?  Did that contribute to the change in sound from that release to "Wounds..."?  Did "Wounds..." feature any old material as well or was it all new compositions?

T:  Yes, that's right. All songs of "From War To Darkness" are old demo songs that we wanted to re-record in real studio conditions. We used to record by ourselves, and this is the first professional stuff out from the band. "Wounds of Hatred..." is composed of new tracks and 2 old tracks that we recorded one year before for the "Night Shadows" MCD.
For sure, composing new songs is the reason of Eternal Majesty's musical evolution.

EA:  In between your two full-length releases, you released a MCD "Night Shadows".  Was there any particular reason for releasing the MCD?  Was it to keep the Eternal Majesty name out there in the scene?  It seems the band could of waited and used some of that material on the "Wounds .." release.

T:  As I said before, we re-recorded two tracks from this MCD, "Don't Follow Me" and "Night Evilness".  This MCD was a manner to symbolize the desire of making and producing our music far from any trendy influences of the emerging black metal scene.

EA:  How did the band start in the early days?  Is it true that the band members are related (brothers or cousins)?  Has the lineup ever changed?  What were some of Eternal Majesty's early influences?

T:  Yes, it's true.  We are 4 blood brothers, and we started playing music together in the middle of the 90's.  The band's name and style changed 2 or 3 times to finally become Eternal Majesty.  The lineup never changed and will never change until we split.  Our early influences?  Dark throne, Emperor, Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Satyricon, Kult ov Azazel, Bathory, Mayhem, old Tiamat, and Moonspell.

EA:  Do you have any formal musical training?  How about the other members in the band?

T:  No formal musical training… we learned music by ourselves.

EA:  It's rather rare to see a band put out a live album prior to any full-length releases?  How did this come about?  Any plans to re-release the demos, split material, or the live album on CD?  I think there would be a demand for that in the underground.

T:  In those times, recording a live tape was just like recording a demo tape.  It was so difficult to record something in a studio that every material was good to spread your name and spread the Black Metal spirit.  This is how true underground music works…hardcore scene used to make the same.  For the moment no re-releases planned, a limited edition should stay limited, right?
If you really want old materials, most of our work is legally or illegally downloadable on the net, you can also check secondhand sites.

EA:  Back in the day, how important was playing live for the band?  The few videos I've seen you guys sounded monstrous live!

T:  Playing live was a real intense moment for us.  In those days, there were not so much shows than today, a Black Metal show was a real event!
Our last show was in 2003, and then we decided to stop.  Maybe the same desire of moving away from the scene for a while?
EA:  What is your personal ideology and that of Eternal Majesty?  Same?  Different?  Satanic?  National Socialist?

T:  Ideologies of the band are the same...anti religious. We never did Eternal Majesty for any political reasons.

EA:  With all of the mystique surrounding the French black metal scene in the earlier days (Les Legions Noires, etc), how does it compare to the scene now in 2010?

T:  I can’t tell you my feeling about the actual French scene because I don’t deal with it anymore.  The last person implicated in the scene I talked to was MKM (Aosoth/Antaeus) … not a really new-school guy!!

EA:  Are there bands that you feel warrant support - French or otherwise?

T:  We support the old ones we shared the stage and splits with: Antaeus, Aosoth, Temple of Baal, Merrimack, Krieg, Judas Iscariot…and other bands like Horna, Impiety, Kult ov Azazel, Mutiilation, Fornication, Thornspawn, Carpathian Forest…

EA:  Thank you for taking the time to do the interview.  Any last words?

T:  Hope you’ll be satisfied by my words and sorry again for not getting back to you sooner!
Thank you for the interview!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Soldier Under Command - Michael Sweet Interview - Stryper

Greetings everyone!

I've been getting some great feedback on these "vault" interviews.  I was out of town last week so this interview will serve as the interview for last week and there will be another one released for this week!

One of the most underrated guitar duos in rock/metal, Michael Sweet and Oz Fox of Stryper, are currently touring in support of, "No More Hell To Pay", their new album full of original material.

This interview with Michael was conducted in March of 2012.  Again, everything was left as is (dates, etc).


EA:  Greetings Mr. Michael Sweet!  Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.  I've been into Stryper since the 80's - having seen you on the Soldiers Tour (at the Paramount here in Seattle, WA w/Bloodgood opening) and the To Hell Tour (also at the Paramount where you filmed the "Free" video, with Hurricane opening). 

MS:  Thank you Mark.  That’s cool you were at the Free video shoot!

EA:  Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me for EA.  I really appreciate it.  Where are you based out of these days?  Still on the east coast or are you back in California

MS:   I’m living on the East Coast, Cape Cod to be exact.  The winters are a bit rough, but I love it out here.

EA:  There's so much to talk about.  Let's start with your new solo CD.  What can you tell me about it?

MS:  I’m really proud of this record.  I’m proud of all the recordings I or Stryper release, but this one is very special to me.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had the ability to pour my heart and soul into a solo album – probably since Truth was the last major solo-project release.   I’ve got some incredible special guests on this album including Kevin Max (former DC Talk, current Audio Adreneline) and Tony Harnell (former singer for TNT).  I wrote a song for my wife Lisa and sung it at our small wedding ceremony a couple of years ago.  I recorded that song and it’s on the album as well.  I’ve also been going to Nashville a lot writing for other artists, and one of the songs I co-wrote with Blair Daly (“Smile” for Uncle Kracker and “Stand” for Rascal Flatts) is on this album.  I can’t wait to get it out.  We’re shooting for an August release but no date has been set.

EA:  I also understand you're doing acoustic shows at churches, playing your solo material, Stryper tunes, and worship songs.  How did this come about and how have the shows gone so far?

MS:  As we talk, I’m actually in an airport heading to a solo show in Portland.  They are going great. I used to lead the music in worship services a few years back for my church and have always enjoyed playing acoustically in churches.  It’s cool because I play a pretty wide variety of stuff at these shows from Stryper classics, to my solo material, to some notable praise and worship songs.  I have a lot of different sides to me as an artist.  These story-tellers type acoustic shows are a side that I really enjoy.

EA:  I also saw recently that you will be traveling to Israel, and fans can purchase tickets to come along, is that correct?  What more can you tell me about this unique travel experience?

MS:  That’s correct.  I’ll be going on a tour of The Holy Land in January of 2013.  I’ve never been but always wanted to.  I think it’s limited to only 50 tickets.  I’m looking forward to touring Israel with some of our closest friends and fans.  People can find out more about it at

EA:  And if that weren't enough, you also have your autobiography in the works?  Goodness when do you have time for anything else?  (laughs)  How long have you been working on the book?  When will it be coming out?  What prompted you to write an autobiography?

MS:  When you put it like that, yeah, I have been pretty busy indeed.  I like keeping busy though.  It’s just the way I am.  I’ve always got something I’m working on.  Ideally we are hoping to release this book simultaneously with my solo album.  We’re working fast and furious on it now.  Doug Van Pelt of HM Magazine is co-authoring it with me.  It’s a very honest book that basically chronicles my life and all that we’ve been through as a band, and me personally as well.  I think there will be some real eye-opening moments for the Stryper fans in this book, but I hope it’s a book that extends far beyond the Stryper fan base as well.  It’s really a human interest story of music, love, loss, and victory.  I’ve always wanted to tell my story and the timing just felt right for me to do this.  Bill Edwards at Big3 Records has always been hugely supportive of my career, both with Stryper and as a solo artist.  Big3 is releasing both the album and the book.

EA:  Switching gears a bit, ever since I've been into Stryper, which dates back to the "Soldiers Under Command" album, you've always been the main writer in the band.  Did that just happen naturally in the early days - you had the most material written so your songs ended up being on the albums?  I know Oz has written a few songs over the span of the band and Robert has contributed as well but nowhere near what you've written.

MS:  It happened very naturally.  I am a songwriter.  That’s what I do.  It’s a talent that God has blessed me with and I’m incredibly thankful for it.  I love writing songs and I don’t say this boastfully but it comes very naturally for me.  I can lock myself away in my home studio and write an entire record in a week or two.  Some writers write all the time, but I tend to write in spurts.  I write a lot, but it’s very focused.  When I get in writing mode, that’s what I do – write, write, and write.  And then other times I’m in touring mode, or business mode.  But when it comes time to do an album, writing songs for that album has always come very naturally to me – which is why I think I’ve enjoyed the process of writing with some of the best writers in Nashville.  I just love the process of songwriting.

EA:  Do you tend to write your songs on the piano or guitar or both?

MS:  Guitar.

EA:  Do you play any other instruments?

MS:  I play a mean kazoo.  You should hear me wail on a version of “When the Saints Come Marching Home” on the kazoo.  (laughing).  Yeah, I play other instruments than just guitar.  I do play piano and even some bass and drums, but I don’t pretend to be a virtuoso at those.  Guitar is my main instrument of course.

EA:  In the early days of Stryper, what were your goals as a band?  Did you achieve them?

MS:  We achieved them, and some.  We just wanted to share with the world our beliefs through music.  We wanted to take a stand for our beliefs, all the while never compromising the music.  We never set out to say “We want to sell X millions of records”.  No, we just wanted to make great music with an inspirational message and share it with as many people as possible.  It was really that simple.  It’s what we wanted to do then, and it’s what we do now.  We feel very blessed every time we get to go out and perform these songs for an audience and are incredibly thankful for the loyal legion of fans that have stuck by us through all these years.

EA:  I know when I was growing up, during the metal boom of the early 80's and beyond, Stryper was always in a tough position.  Being a Christian rock/metal band, you were an easy target for the naysayers - who tended to be people of the Faith more so than metal fans.  Were there ever times when the band thought, you know, this is just too much criticism, we should consider changing the message of the band? 

MS:  I don’t pay a lot of attention to the naysayers.  There will always be skeptics – and you’re right – they tend to be particularly prominent within the church, which has always seemed odd to me.  Back in the day we would have churches protesting outside our concerts.  It was crazy.  But we’d always go out and politely invite them to come to the show.  Surprisingly most of them had never seen a Stryper show and occasionally when we would get some of them to come in and see the show, they would realize how God was working with this band and lives were being changed.  But yes, generally speaking, I ignore the naysayers.  As long as I continue to follow the Lord and seek His wisdom, that’s who I answer to.

EA:  With "The Yellow and Black Attack", "Soldiers Under Command", and "To Hell With The Devil", the line up was solid it seemed.  But then prior to "To Hell With The Devil" being released, Timothy Gaines was out of the band for, what seemed, like only a few months.  I remember a promo ad for the album showed Tim's replacement. Can you elaborate on that period of time - what exactly happened?  I remember talking to one of my friends back then who was just shocked that Tim was gone.

MS:  Read my book when it comes out. (laughing).  It is a long story, but generally speaking, yes, Tim was out of the band for a very brief moment during that time.  And it just didn’t work out.  We were happy to have Tim back in the band.

EA:  Something I always wondered about as a fan was the switch of the original "To Hell With The Devil" cover - with the angels to the plain cover.  Even back then in the mid 80's, there were covers FAR more offensive than something like that I thought.  Was it your record label's idea to cave in and change it?  It's such a strong album cover that I never understood why it was changed.

MS:  There were certain stores that were refusing to carry the original artwork.  So yeah, the label decided to do an alternative cover so that it could be distributed more widely.  I agree though, compared to a lot of album covers, that “angel” cover was quite tame.  We could have put a half-naked girl on the cover and it would have been just fine, but an album cover showing the conflicts between good and evil was somehow too much for certain retailers to handle.

EA:  Looking back, how much pressure did you feel to follow up "To Hell With the Devil"?  Was the record label on you guys to produce something similar?  It seemed to me that "In God We Trust" was almost purposefully produced to get more airplay, more plays on MTV, etc.  Is that accurate or no?

MS:  I’m not sure it was pressure from the label or pressure we put on ourselves, or a combination of both.  But you have to remember, this was a time when radio and MTV literally could make or break your career.  It’s not like today where the fans get to chose what they want to hear through YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, etc.  In the late 80’s  radio and MTV determined which bands got heard and which ones didn’t, so if you wanted to be heard you were forced to produce albums that were appealing to those formats.

EA:  The next album, "Against The Law", received a fair amount of criticism and confusion from many long time fans.  I remember people saying that the band had abandoned their Christian message and roots which I thought was ridiculous.  Being a Christian isn't like a piece of clothing you put on and take off, it is who you are as a person.  Period.  It never changes.  To me, back then and today, I thought the band was just toning the message down but you certainly didn't abandon it.  What are you thoughts on that album and time period?

MS:  Not to sound like a broken record, but I will talk a lot about this period in my book.  I admit to it being a rough time for us personally and professionally.  And yes, we had taken a beating for so long from “the church” that it began to wear on us.  We didn’t abandon our faith nearly as much as we were removing ourselves from the “church” scene.  We’re only human, and you can only take so much beating before you finally say “Look.  We don’t live by your rules.  We answer to God, and only God.”  Yeah, we had a bit of a chip on our shoulders at that time, but it wasn’t with God.  All of that combined with the fact that the industry was changing.  Our style of music was fading nationwide.  We had gone from playing arenas to clubs.  It was rough times, no doubt.  And that probably came across in the music.

EA:  Now, here in 2012, what can you say about your departure from the band back after "Can't Stop The Rock" compilation came out?  What led up to it?

MS:  I get asked this question a lot.  All I can really say is that it felt like the right time to depart.  We had a good run and did some great things, and it was time for me to take a step away from it all.  But I’m a songwriter, so it wasn’t as if I wanted to stop music all together.  I did a couple of solo albums.  My first solo record had 5 radio hits on Christian radio and was received very well.  It sold a quarter of a million copies, which for a Christian album at the time was incredible numbers.  There was no one moment or something that happened where I said “That’s it.  I’m out of here.”  It was a process.  I felt my interest fading and I just knew it was time for me to step away for a while.

EA:  I know Robert, Oz, and Tim continued on as three piece briefly before calling it a day.  Then the band went into a lengthy hibernation.  What were you specifically doing during that time?  Is it true you were working as a park ranger for a time?

MS:  It is true.  Like I mentioned, I released a string of solo albums during that time as well.  But yes, my wife at the time had a family business and I worked as a park ranger there.  It was a cool job, but I never stopped writing. 

EA:  I bought a copy of the Limited Edition "To Hell…." back in 2000 that has the original artwork restored as well as your cover of "Winter Wonderland" as a bonus track.  I believe you were selling these directly to the fans, correct?  How did that reissue come about back then?

MS:  Wow, I had almost forgotten all about that re-issue.  It was licensed by another company who did a limited re-pressing that we sold through our website. 

EA:  When the band reunited at the first Stryper Expo back in 2000, was that the start of the second chapter so to speak?

MS:   That was a lot of fun.  And yes, was helpful in getting us playing together again.  It really ignited when about a year later I did a solo show in Puerto Rico and Sin Dizzy (with Tim and Oz) were on that bill as well.   We got together and did some songs that night and the place was packed.  It was several moments like that which  lead us to wanting to do more shows together.

EA:  Jumping to "The Covering" album - how was the response to it?  I personally liked a lot of the cover versions - some more than others.  But I thought it was a fun record that showed the bands roots. 

MS:  Thanks.  It was intended to be a fun album, so I’m glad you got that out of it.  These are bands that shaped our musical roots, and we wanted to do our best to pay homage to those acts.  The response to the album has been generally positive.  To your earlier point, there are the “naysayers” who like to criticize anything we do that is outside of their realm of comfort, but the naysayers were fewer than expected on this album.  I think by now, most people understand us.  We’re a rock band, with rock roots, and we didn’t become who we are by listening to the contemporary Christian music of the time.

EA:  One quick question about "Shout It Out Loud" (originally by KISS) on the record - was there ever any thought or discussion about having Oz do the Gene vocal parts - to trade off with you like they do on the original?  Just a fan question I have as I thought it would of made the song even cooler.

MS:   No, that wasn’t really something we discussed.  Oz is a great singer, no doubt, but we work best when harmonizing together.

EA:  Stryper played Seattle twice in the past few years (at El Corazon), both of which I couldn't make for various reasons that I was completely bummed about.  But, I know you're coming back in June.  What can the fans expect from this current crop of shows?

MS:  We play a lot of the Stryper classics along with some of the newer stuff, including some songs off The Covering.  The band is sounding as tight as ever.  We’re really happy with how we’ve found our groove. 

EA:  Michael, it's been such a pleasure interviewing you.  Is there anything you'd like to end the interview with?

MS:  I just want to thank all of your readers and our fans for their continued prayers and support of myself and Stryper.  We are all greatly appreciative of those who come to the shows, listen to our music, and hopefully share that music with others.  See ya on the road!