Παρασκευή 29 Ιουνίου 2012

SINISTER REALM Interview - Entering the Realm with John Gaffney

SINISTER REALM come from USA playing classic Heavy Metal with Doom and Epic elements. After two albums, they're working on their third effort and we took the chance to talk with the brain of the Realm, John Gaffney. Enjoy the interview and support this great band now. 

Lets go back in time, where and when did Sinister Realm was created? 

Sinister Realm started around the summer of 2008, a little before that I was playing in a band called Pale Divine with our original drummer Darin McCloskey. I decided to leave Pale Divine and Darin called me and said that he liked some of the ideas that I had brought down towards the end of my time with the band and he wanted to work on them. When we first started it was just me and him but as things progressed we thought the songs were really good and that we should get a full proper band together. So we did... a demo followed and we landed up singing with Shadow Kingdom Records, two CDs later and here we are!

How did you get in touch with Shadow Kingdom Records for your first album?

I knew about Shadow Kingdom because I had ordered stuff from them so I thought they would be a good label for us as they specialize in classic sounding metal and doom releases. Darin was playing in Pittsburgh with Pale Divine and he ran into Tim, the guy who runs Shadow Kingdom, and gave him our demo. He really liked it and offered to release our full length debut album.

At the moment, you are recording your third album, so in which production stage are you now? 

Well... we are not really recording the album, we are recording a demo of 5 songs. We’re working with a management company out of Europe called Gabriel Management and they want to shop us around a bit so they needed a demo to do that. We really just finished the whole thing up a few days ago. Hopefully something happens for us and we can begin planning to record our next album, which at the moment is titled "World of Evil".

Your second album, “The Crystal Eye”, is less doom-y than the first one and more straight, so what should we expect from the third one?

I think the third one will be in line with "The Crystal Eye". There's a lot of straight up metal moments but I always like to mix things up. Just like on "The Crystal Eye" there will be some slow, epic doom-y songs. I don't really like albums that are all one thing whether it be all slow or fast, I like when things are mixed up a bit, to me that gives an album some flow.  

Do you have any further information for us? Some songs names, release date etc?

The title of the album, as I mentioned earlier, is "World of Evil". I've written 7 songs so far, "Dark Angel of Fate" which is a fast Angel Witch type song. "Bell Strikes Fear" which is a rocking NWOBHM style number, "World of Evil" which is an epic mid-paced one, "Cyber Villain" which is a fast Priest style number, "Call of the Night Wolf" a melodic mid-paced one, "Four Black Witches" a  long one with some tempo changes and cool harmony lines and last for the moment, "The Crown of the Fallen King" which is a slow epic mournful doom-y number. We’re putting our demo out there with the help of our manager Bart Gabriel, to see if anyone would be interested in releasing our next CD which I hope would be out early 2013 but a lot remains to be worked out for the moment.

The line-up remains the same with “The Crystal Eye”?

Yes, thank goodness! Switching band members is never an easy thing but sometimes it has to be done in order for the band to move forward. Thankful we have a great bunch of guys that are all on the same page and dedicated to moving the band forward. Each member adds their own voice to the band and it's everyone's contributions that make Sinister Realm what it is.

The galloping bass reminds of Steve Harris, music reminds of Dio-era Black Sabbath, so which are your main influences?

Those are definitely two of my big influences. From a writing stand point I would say Maiden, Priest, Dio solo and with Sabbath, the first 3 or 4 Ozzy albums, Mercyful Fate and Candlemass are my biggest influences. From a bass playing stand point Geezer Butler, Steve Harris, Bob Daisley, Roger Glover are some of my favorites and most influential. I've always liked bass players that add something to the songs so if you took the bass away the songs would not be complete, they don't have to be the fastest or most technical players, in fact as I get older I like that kind of playing less and less, I just really like bass players who play to the song and still add their own signature to it.

How did you get into Heavy Metal by the way?

AC/DC "Back in Black". I was aware of Kiss before that but I really flipped when I saw AC/DC on TV doing "You Shook me all night Long". The year was 1980 and I started searching for other bands like them. I used to listen to a college radio station, I don't know if you have that but in the States there are lots of them. The signal is not strong for the station but the DJs are college kids, so I would stay up late at night listening to the metal shows on this station and tape them on cheap cassette tapes. This is where I discovered bands like Priest, Accept, Maiden, Saxon etc. This was before the internet and I lived in a very isolated place, so I didn't have access to stores, I had no friends who liked metal so it was a real exciting thing for me to listen to these shows and discover new bands. It was there that my love for heavy metal was born and has never gone away.

Do your lyrics affect the music direction of your compositions and which are the themes you are dealing with? In your first s/t album there were more “demon”, “dead”, “damned” references and in “The Crystal Eye” more “swords”, “might” etc

I would say the music and the lyrics go hand in hand. Sometimes I'll start with a riff and if it has a certain sound or feels a certain way a lyric or two will jump in my head and that will set the mood for the song. Sometimes a song title comes to me and I'll sit down and try to write a riff that goes with the title or lyrical theme I want. As for what I like to write about, I usually write things that are a bit vague and use a lot of symbolism so the listener can put their own images to it. I like to play with imagery and words. Themes I usually like are the idea of searching into the beyond, the battle between good and evil in all of us, some of the things I see in the world or maybe my personal emotions towards people or situations. I think there was a bit more "Swords" and "Might" on "The Crystal Eye" because I was a bit angry at the time I was writing those songs, someone who was passing through my life was treating me rather badly so I guess my thoughts came out in some of the songs, at least symbolically.

In both albums your semifinal song is an instrumental with the band name in the title. “Enter the Sinister Realm” in the first album and “Battle for the Sinister Realm” (great track!) in “The Crystal Eye”. What’s the idea behind this?

I've always liked instrumentals, I think they add something different to an album so when it came time to write the instrumentals I wanted the titles to sound like a movie title, I was specifically thinking of "Planet of the Apes" the way each one of those sequels used the "Planet of the Apes" part… so thus "Enter and Battle for The Sinister Realm". I also designed them that they would flow into each other if someone were to play them one after the other.

What Doom Metal and Classic Heavy Metal mean for you and where do you place Sinister Realm?

I think of Doom Metal in the more classic Candlemass sense, it needs to be heavy, slow, epic and emotional. I'm not really a follower of all the various sub genres of doom like funeral doom so that's what "Doom" means to me. "Classic Heavy Metal" for me is 1980-1984. The seeds for metal were certainly planted earlier than that in the 70s but to me it all came into focus in 1980. Think about the album that Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Ozzy, Saxon, Motorhead and others put out in 1980, it's like Heavy Metal really came into it's own that year. I know a lot of people refer to Sinister Realm as a Doom Metal band but to be honest I never considered Sinister Realm to be a doom band, I always saw us as 1980-1984 Classic metal. If you look at an album like "Heaven and Hell" or "Diary of a Madman", both those records have some slow heavy dark songs on them but I don't think anyone would consider them "Doom" records. So that's kinda the way I view Sinister Realm. We're a classic sounding metal band with some fast, slow and mid-tempo stuff. I think what happened on the first record was that we had two songs that were faster that didn't make the record for various reasons. If those songs had been on there maybe people would not have thought of us as a doom band, who knows though... it's all metal in the end, right? 

I believe that your main fan base residents in Europe, so how are things for traditional metal in the States?

Well, there are people that like traditional metal and it really seems like it's starting to spread to the younger generation. I see more and more kids when I'm out wearing Maiden and Priest shirts and I think they’re really starting to realise where the roots of metal came from. Metal still lies far out of the mainstream and metal core and stuff like that is probably what's most popular here. There is a legion of traditional metal heads in the States though, that guard the flame and keep it alive. Europe is great for their support of metal and Germany in my opinion is the metal capital of the world.

I saw you last January at Metal Assault festival in Germany and your performance was great. What do live shows mean for you and how difficult is for a band like you to arrange a tour or individual and separate shows?

Live shows are what it's all about for me, that's where you get to really learn your craft and interacting with the fans and metal heads is always awesome. I go to shows all the time as I just love the live environment. Here in the states it's not hard to get a one off gig and where we live on the East Coast we don't have to travel very far to play out of town. Getting over to Europe is a bit more challenging for a band like us, we haven't quite been around long enough to make certain things happen but were really hoping that we will be back to Europe and do a proper tour and that would be totally awesome!! So if anyone out there reading can help... drop us a line.

Thanks for the interview, cheers to the rest of the boys and I hope to see you live again and soon.

Thank you for your support of Sinister Realm and for helping keep Heavy Metal alive. We hope to be back in Europe in the not so distant future and we can all bang our heads and have a drink together... Long Live Heavy Metal!!!


Sinister Realm (2009)
The Crystal Eye (2011)

 Line-up 2012:

 Alex Kristof - vocals
John Gaffney - bass, guitar, background vocals
John Kantner - rhythm & lead guitar
John Risko - lead guitar
Chris Metzger - drums

Upcoming Tour Dates 2012

30-06-2012 - Warriors Of Metal Open Air Festival, Ohio, USA
20-07-2012 - The Dirty 'OL Tavern Lancster, Pa. USA
21-07-2012 - The Pub on Main Macungie, Pa, USA
04-08-2012 - Private Party, USA
11-08-2012 - O'Reilly's Pub 2672 Coral St Philadelphia, PA, USA
18-09-2012 - The Pub on Main Macungie, Pa, USA

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