Posted on July 31th. 2018
Questionnaire by Officer Nice on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Hello, here Rico, aka Officer Nice from the Metal to Infinity webzine. I have some questions for you, hope you’ll enjoy them.
Officer Nice: First of all… Introduce us to yourself, this band or project. Who are you guys and what are your experiences in the Metal world, in music in general?
Tom: Hello, Rico! Well, our drummer Vincent used to be the drummer for a pretty well-known Metallica tribute group called Magnetica, and is now a member of the brand new (and absolutely excellent) Progressive Death Metal ensemble ‘Devious Instinct’. Be sure to check them out! I myself have been part of Ostrogoth, Neo Prophet and other Rock/Metal bands in the past, and am currently in Thorium (preparing to release our debut album after the summer!), 23 Acez (new album out since March!) and the Psychedelic/Prog Rock act Quantum Fantay (catch us live at any time if you can; it’s an experience you’re not likely to forget!).
As far as an introduction to Entering Polaris is concerned; this is a pet project of mine in between all the other madness that continually ensues with the other bands 😉 This is where I let go and just write whatever I feel like without having to take into account what would fit the style and (sub-) genre of the band the song is intended for. Entering Polaris is the first of two such records that will be released this year – the other, which is Death/Thrash Metal oriented, is called ‘In Motion’, and its debut album ‘Thriving Force’ will be released after the summer. Polaris was released on the 7th of June; the release date for In Motion will be announced soon! 🙂
Officer Nice: Entering Polaris seems to be something new, so where did the ideas come from and how did you start with it?
Tom: I’m always writing new stuff (or trying to), and there’s always riffs, melodies and bits and pieces of songs and lyrics and such appearing on my dictaphone or on scraps of paper around the house. I love brainstorming about new music and firing up the songwriting process! The thrill of creating something new, moulding something where a moment before there was nothing, is always exhilarating, especially when you feel you’re onto something cool. The problem is that starting something is always easy; finishing it up is a lot harder 😉 It’s therefore that I usually start drawing up some battle plans from quite early on – up to and including roughly what the album is going to look like, a possible track list, what the songs could be about lyrically, and so on. A lot of that goes out the window eventually as the songwriting process constantly takes you into new territory, but it’s nice to have a rough chart handy to keep you pointed in something resembling a direction, at least.
As for where the idea for Entering Polaris originated from – playing in different bands through the years has always meant writing either alongside others, or writing on my own yet with the band’s style firmly at the foreground of my mind. That’s been a fun process for sure, but in the meantime ideas for songs and albums of my own kept on piling up. I always knew I wanted to release my own music as well, where I could be free and take the music into the territories of Metal that I personally have always loved. The idea wasn’t to experiment heavily or to do wild and crazy things at the fringes of the genre; quite the contrary even. What you’ll hear on this record is a cross-section of my likes and tastes. Metal the way I like it – big, fast, energetic, heavy, complex yet catchy, with cool lyrics based on history, sci-fi, mythology, and/or personal introspective kind of stuff.
Officer Nice: I suppose you read my review, was I right or do you have some disagreements?
Tom: I think you were right on the money with the review! Am I’m not just saying that because the review was extremely positive… 😉 I really like the fact that you latched onto the variety in styles and influences that make up the album: with this record, I truly wanted to go for a broad spectrum in terms of styles and genres, and not just make a Power Metal, Heavy Metal or Prog Metal album. Oh, and I love that you’re digging that saxophone solo on ‘Flightless’! I also love the sax and think it fits amazingly over Prog-oriented kinds of tracks.
Officer Nice: The strength of “Godseed” is the fact that lots of guest musicians were present, responsible for a varied and enjoyable musical experience. The list of the guest musicians is pretty impressive. So tell me, how did you convince all these people to join the project?
Tom: This was kind of a shocker for me, ‘cause I was steeling myself against a surge of rejection slips. I’d been working to finish up a number of albums of my own for several years, and it’d always been the plan to try and get vocalists on these albums that would make it all sound worthwhile. Being first and foremost a fan of the genre and of so many bands, I knew I wanted to try and contact people whose voice I’d always been a fan of. Of course, that all looks well and good on paper, and I expected, as with everything, that the reality of the matter would be another thing entirely. I fully expected my first e-mails and messages to either be met with silence, or to spawn a wave of negative reactions. I was absolutely stunned when I started receiving positive responses almost at once – from people who were some of my favourite singers in the world, no less – and was totally floored when almost everyone I contacted said ‘yes’ to this project. I’m proud beyond words to have these singers on this record!
Officer Nice: Another brand of this album is the compositions, the arrangements. I hear spectacular guitar parts and technical played drums, yet all stays melodic to hear. What’s a good metal song for you and are you satisfied yourself?
Tom: A good song is what I always strive for. For me, the song should always come first; everything else is surplus. What I mean by that is that all the basic elements that make up the track – the chorus, the riffs, the melodies and themes and so forth – should be strong enough to carry their own. It was never the idea, as a guitar player, to write an album full of shred guitar or endless instrumental tangents. At the end of the day, I truly want to hear a song, with great vocals, great choruses, fat riffing and strong melodies throughout. That doesn’t have to entail simple verse/chorus pop structures, ‘cause I totally adore huge, complex epics (look for more in that vein on the In Motion and Thorium albums!). It only means that I like things to have balance, and for this record to come across as a band effort – not as a guitar-oriented solo project.
Officer Nice: How about the recordings of Godseed? Did all of these musicians join the studio? How have they responded and when the product was finished?
Tom: It was a Herculean task, getting everyone on there – and one I admit I’d greatly underestimated. The timings alone were difficult at times. It’s funny, ‘cause you hear people together on the record, even though their respective recordings were done months apart, in reality. Some of the vocalists were on tour when I contacted them and couldn’t record up until a certain date (perilously close to the studio deadline, at times), while two other vocalists who had originally confirmed had to decline in the end due to health and personal reasons, unfortunately. There were loads of setbacks and a few occasions where plans had to be revised last-minute, but then again isn’t that always the case? The most important thing is that (almost) everyone made it onto the album, and that they all sound awesome! I mailed everyone a copy of the album in the past few weeks indeed, and it seems everyone who participated is very satisfied with the result 🙂
Officer Nice: Tell us more about the songwriting. This is a very varied effort, in different moods and obviously there are plenty of influences.
Tom: I love so many kinds of Metal and Rock, ranging from old-school to modern, from Thrash to Prog, from Rush to Scar Symmetry, Shadow Gallery to After Forever and Steve Vai to Testament, it was only natural that all those things would find their way onto the record somehow. Of course, the danger with that is that the result winds up an inconsistent patchwork. The In Motion record, I suppose, is there to counter that later this year 🙂 It’s there that the slightly more modern, melodic/progressive Death and Thrash Metal stuff is concentrated. There also, each song stands on its own and tells its own little story – and differs subtly in style with the other tracks.
Mainly, what I really like is contrast, rather than extremes. One of my favourite examples of that on this record is ‘The Field Of Ghosts’, where Arno Menses (Sieges Even, Subsignal) sings alongside Fabio Lione (Angra, Rhapsody,…). The song is a dialogue between two seasons and, metaphorically, two sides of a personality. Arno plays the ‘frugal autumn’, while Fabio plays the ‘vehement summer’. The entire track is a juxtaposition between the two, where the music itself alternates between exuberant and melancholic, wild and inhibited, Power Metal and Prog Rock. I was so excited when I knew I could get both Arno and Fabio for this tune, ‘cause they were exactly the two people I had in mind for this one!
Officer Nice: Next to Dario, responsible for some guitar parts, also a saxophonist was found. Tell us more about the reason why you added this instrument. I really adore it….
Tom: I’m glad to hear you like the sax so much! I know adding a sax to a Metal record is always a gamble ‘cause not everyone in the scene appears to, err…”appreciate” the instrument as much 😉 Reactions, at least, range from wildly enthusiastic to wholly indifferent, to furious, scolding rage, haha. Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea… Personally I absolutely adore the saxophone, and as I mentioned earlier I think it fits Metal (and Prog especially) to a tee. The idea isn’t totally new of course, since everyone from Pink Floyd and Dream Theater to all kinds of other bands has done it, but I wanted someone special. Enter Gregg Rossetti, the absolutely brilliant musician behind the American Prog Metal band Suspyre…
I’ve been a Suspyre fan for many years (for those who don’t know them: picture a kind of technical and slightly more avant-garde version of Symphony X of old – incidentally also from New Jersey), and consider their 2007 and 2008 releases ‘A Great Divide’ and ‘When Time Fades’ masterpieces. It’s there that Gregg (guitars) often picks up the saxophone as well, and I knew I wanted to have his intricate and heartfelt style of playing on the album. He also appears on the In Motion record later this year, by the way.
Officer Nice: What about the reviews so far and what’s the main goal of Entering Polaris?
Tom: The reviews so far have been amazing! I’m totally psyched by the response to the album and how it’s making its way across Europe, promo-wise. The track ‘Godspeed’ was even played on Wacken Radio, it seems! Surreal… I don’t suppose there’s a main goal for the immediate future, other than to have this first record get out there and reach as many people as possible, which I’m glad to say it seems to be doing right now 🙂
Officer Nice: What can you tell us about the lyrics? Is this a concept album?
Tom: Lyrics are a personal passion of mine, and at times a pet peeve also… I started writing stuff (short stories, short novels, some poetry and so on) from when I was around eight or nine years old – long before I ever picked up a guitar – so reading and writing are definitely major fields of interests for me. This goes as far as to make it hard to enjoy a song if the lyrics are absolutely horrendous. In music, I’m a total Neil Peart (Rush) devotee, not just for his drumming (best-drummer-in-the-world candidate if ever there was one), but for his lyrics also.
Rush’s lyrics have a vast influence on my own lyric-writing, and it’s lyrics like theirs, Iron Maiden’s, early Dream Theater’s and so forth that I often try to shape my own attempts at lyric-writing around. Whether it’s history, mythology or sci-fi, socially or personally contemplative stuff, my main goal is always to try and come up with something eloquent, colourful, brimming with as many alliterations and puns as I can manage to sneak in, and, if possible, a few interesting references or extra layers here and there. Whether I actually ever succeed in that, I leave entirely up to you 😉
In essence, the album isn’t a concept record, but every track has its own little storyline, I suppose you might say. Aside from ‘The Field Of Ghosts’ which we talked about earlier, the opening song ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ was inspired by the massive, gothic Space Opera novel ‘Revelation Space’ by British SF author Alastair Reynolds. The acoustic tune ‘A Song Of Distant Earth’ was based on the novel ‘The Songs Of Distant Earth’ by personal favourite Arthur C. Clarke; ‘Paradise Reclaimed’ is a riff on the ancient Greek mythological tale of Hermes and Persephone and the origin of the seasons, and so on… Expect more in that vein on the Thorium and In Motion albums!
Officer Nice: The front cover looks just awesome. Who’s the artist behind it?
Tom: I’m so glad people are picking up on the artwork and digging it! There’s been loads of praise for the cover art everywhere, which makes me very glad. All the art for the album was made by brand new and upcoming artist Masha Pimas.
She and her partner Yarrid Henrard are long-time friends of mine, live and work in Stockholm, and design artwork, logos, layout, 3D models and what-have-you, and both of them do absolutely astounding work… Wait ‘til you see the artwork for the new Quantum Fantay album soon – it’s going to blow people’s minds!
Officer Nice: Is there any chance we will ever see this on stage? Ayreon did it, so… You know what I mean!
Tom: That’s going to be a stretch I’m afraid… I’m pretty positive that most of these tracks won’t find their way to the stage anytime soon, unfortunately, but there is some good news in that respect: one of the songs, namely ‘Godspeed’, has been re-recorded for the Thorium album. This one’s sort of the single of the Entering Polaris record anyway, and certainly the catchiest track on there, so I’m very psyched to have this tune on the Thorium setlist as well! We’ve played it live two times now, and the reactions to the song have been amazing. Let’s hope we have bit of a ‘hit’ with this one! 🙂
Officer Nice: It’s obvious you’re a Metal head ‘pur sang’. So, what were the best three albums you heard this year?
Tom: Well, I don’t get around to buying records in such huge quantities as I used to anymore (and those that I do are often slightly older ones that I seek out), but for 2018 I’ve to say the new Subsignal album ‘La Muerta’ and the new Refuge (old Rage line-up) are two of my favourites at the moment. From the previous year, I was completely blown away by the latest Threshold album – not just a great record by a great band, but a downright stunning masterpiece, and a classic album already. Not a studio album per se, then, but a live DVD I’ve been enjoying immensely is the concert film by Ayreon – I was lucky enough to be there at one of the shows that weekend, and I’ve to say it was one of the most mind-blowing concerts I’ve ever attended in my entire life… The DVD captures it all – the magic, the experience, and one of the greatest live shows ever put to film. One future release I’m VERY excited for is the upcoming Conception album; I was overjoyed when I heard Roy Khan was taking up the microphone again, and with Conception no less… Now there was a cult band!
Officer Nice: Will we ever hear a follow-up album or are there other plans?
Tom: Oh yes, many plans, and loads of stuff being worked on! 🙂 I’m writing material for two follow-up records as we speak, and there’s an acoustic album with another guitar player that’s been simmering in the shadows for a couple of years now and that we really ought to finish up sometime soon… Plus some other stuff on the side that should probably also see the light of day sometime, after the aforementioned records are completed. Plenty of things, in other words, but I don’t want to set any deadlines for myself just yet. There’s four albums coming out this year that I had a hand in or that I (co)wrote and/or produced, namely 23 Acez, Entering Polaris, Thorium and In Motion, so that’ll have to do for at least the near future 🙂
Officer Nice: Some last words for our readers? Regards, Officer Nice
Tom: First of all a big thanks to you, Rico, for this very in-depth interview! It’s tons of fun to talk music and to discuss the album(s)! Other than that, I suppose I’ve jotted down way too many words already (sorry, anyone that made it this far!), so I’ll just say: check out the album, have a look at the cool video material on Youtube and on Facebook concerning the vocalists, and stay tuned for more music later this year! 🙂 Cheers – Tom !!