DK Gorbunova, Moscow
May 11, 2002
There's nothing better than to see justice done on earth. When Royal Hunt came to Russia for the first time two years ago, they had no opportunity to present themselves properly and the fans had no chance to evaluate the band for what it's worth. 14 hours of customs clearance and the delay of the performance for 3.5 hours are more than enough to ruin any desire to play and any desire to listen. And even though Andre Andersen, who was born in Moscow, by the way, and his men did their best to save the show and got a really worm response from the crowd, it was still far from what both sides expected.
This time, everything was different. The band and its equipment arrived in Moscow on time, and even though the news conference started one hour behind the schedule, that was the only trouble. I gotta admit that it was one of the most interesting news conferences in my life, with intelligent and competent questions and detailed answers. Most of the time Andre was speaking. Honestly, I expected this man to be grim and unfriendly like most Russians who have succeeded abroad, but the renown keyboardist was in good spirits and even smiling once in a while. The other three band members were mostly idling, given that Andre was speaking in Russian and they had no idea what was going on, but all the three turned to be very nice people and it was a great pleasure to meet them.
- A question to Andre. Can you tell us how you compose songs?
- My songwriting method is unusual. I don't use instruments when I compose, I create everything in my head. Most of the people compose when they sit an the piano or with a guitar, but I create all the parts in my head. This makes my cooperation with other people a bit problematic, for they can't read my thoughts. That is why I follow a pattern like that - first I compose a song, then I make a minimalist demo of it with drums, bass guitar, etc., and then I get together with the full band and we start arguing about it. The argument lasts for about a week. You see, the guys contribute a lot to creation of songs, or rather they cut out pieces of my songs. This has become a sort of sports for them. For instance, when I wrote a song called "Fear" it was 17 minutes long, but on the record it is only nine minutes long. The guys cut out eight minutes from it. However I must admit that each time they are right, I get mad about it, but this is the truth. I always have ready melodies for the guitar, bass, etc. Moreover, I can play guitar and bass myself, so I can trespass into their territory. We've been working together for so long that I can foresee what each musician will be playing in a certain piece. It is now quite easy for I've played with Steen for 15 years and with Jacob for 12-13 years, and we know each other very well. There are no musical problems in the band.
- Andre, what does the album title "The Watchers" mean?
- "The Watchers" is a chapter of Ray Bradbury's book. I liked that title very much for it is a hint to the album "The Mission" that is entirely based on Bradbury's works. "The Watchers" matched the concept of the disc perfectly. We call it "the longest EP ever." The EP that grew up to be 70 minutes long. We did not plan it, we originally wanted to do a common EP like "Intervention". But, you see, we get a lot of fan mail, and as we have a new singer in the band, people naturally ask how old songs will sound with John's vocals. That is why we filled the CD with everything we had - John is singing new songs, bonus tracks, old songs, acoustic versions, live versions. And I thought that "The Watchers" is an ideal title for the album. Moreover, it links together the three above-mentioned releases.
- So it can be considered a demonstration of John West's vocal abilities, right?
- Yes, to a certain extent. And it was a pleasure to our record company.
- I've got one more question to Andre. Your former singer D.C. Cooper is performing some Royal Hunt tracks with his new band, what do you think of it?
- To tell you the truth, I don't care. He can sing them if he wants, these are good songs after all. I only hope he does not spoil them too much.
- This one goes to John West. Who initiated the revival of our old band Artension? Will you continue with this project in the future?
- I had some free time last year, I took a break from a very busy year with Royal Hunt. Vitaly [Kuprij, Artension keyboardist] called me and asked me if I could do some studio work, if we could get back together the original Artension line-up, would I be interested in it. I asked the guys [in Royal Hunt] what they thought about it, they said it's no problem, so we [Artension] made a new album. We'll see what the future holds, I don't know if we go on. There's always a possibility. We're pretty open about doing some other things right now, but our main focus is obviously Royal Hunt. That's our main band. But there's still an opportunity to do something on the side, an opportunity to do some different kinds of music with different people.
- Let me ask Steen Mogensen something. Why wasn't your song "The Final Lullaby" included in the 1999 reissue of the album "Paradox"?
- A very good question. You know, "The Final Lullaby" was a bonus track for the Japanese single "Message To God", it was never meant to be on the album. It's always like which songs we can release on which CD and on which territory, it's an affair of record labels. I hope it will be released another time on some other album.
- Andre, why don't you work with Prime Time anymore?
- Actually, I never planned to work with Prime Time, it happened by accident. The thing is that I knew Henrik Poulsen, I helped him on a couple of Narita records, and once upon a time he decided to do a project of his own called Prime Time. I didn't know anybody in the band except Henrik, but we were friends and he said he needed a keyboard player. I made no contribution to the songwriting, I just came in and recorded my parts. Nobody ever said I should continue to the end. They made a few records without me after that.
- Andre, can you tell us a little bit about your second solo album "Black On Black"?
- The record will be out really soon, it will be released in Japan in late May and in Europe in mid-June, I believe. I guess everybody knows who took part in the recording and staff. It is a sort of back-to-the-roots album. I have always been a fan of Deep Purple, Rainbow, etc. My first solo album ("Changing Skin") was very symphonic and quite quiet. This one will be totally different.
- All songs are sung by Jan Parry (Elegy), right? How did you come up with the idea to invite him?
- Yeah, Jan sings on all tracks. I wanted to involve him from the very beginning, as soon as I got an idea to make this record. I noticed that I often go back and listen to records of the 1970s - "Rainbow Rising", etc. And I wanted to make an album that wound sound like it was recorded in 2002 but on principles that were used in the 1970s, when there were no boundaries. Back then people were just writing good songs without trying to make them progressive or complicated, it was just hard rock with a melody. Jan was a natural choice for me because when you think of Rainbow you at once recall Dio. And Jan has some elements in his voice that are close to Dio. I phoned him and he turned out to be a nice guy. He made up his mind quickly, showed up at my place in just a week and we started working together. It was very easy working with Jan, and we recorded the vocals for the entire record in four or five days.
- Andre, can you tell me what the song "1348" is about? If I understand the lyrics correctly, the song tells about a plague raging through Europe, right?
- Yes, that's right. I don't even remember where I got this idea from. Apparently I watched some movie and there was a line saying that the action sets in in 1348.
- And why did you decide to make a song about it?
- In general, the entire "Moving Target" album was based on headlines - in the papers, on the radio, on television, it doesn't matter. And it seemed to me that it was possible to draw the line between the drug addition, which "Last Goodbye" is about, and the 14th century plague.
- One more question to John. Please tell us about your project Earthmaker. Who's playing there and what kind of music does it make?
- It's my first… a sort of epic, it's built on a story, the whole story goes through the entire album and it reads like a book. It's something I've been working on in my spare time, it's a solo album. I've got some friends to play with me - Chris Caffery from Savatage on guitar, Metal Mike Chlasciak from Halford on another guitar, Bobby Jarzombek from Halford on drums, Kevin Chown from Artension on bass. There is also a song that I've wrote called "When Worlds Collide" that features my good friend Andre on keyboards and Vitaly Kuprij on keyboards in a sort of a duel, I guess you could say so, a keyboard duel. It's something I've been working on for almost two years, for me it's like writing a book, it's almost like a book set to music. I can't think of any other way to describe it, but when you see the album you'll realize that this is sort of a book. And each song leads to the next song, it's like chapters with an epic theme, it took me a lot of time to work it all out, but it was worthwhile in the end. The music's very heavy, it's something different for me, it's kind of really hard and groovy record with a story. It will be out, I think, in October in Europe.
After the news conference everybody in the room rushed to the band to have something signed or to take pictures of themselves with Andre, John, Steen or Jacob. We did not miss the opportunity either, for it turned out to be a great problem for John to write my name properly on a CD booklet. Following that, the band retreated to get ready for the show which was to begin in just three hours.
By 8 p.m. the audience filled the hall of DK Gorbunova and was waiting for the band with impatience. I must say that the hall had substantial empty spaces, which can be explained by the great number of concerts that Moscow experiences this year. Apparently those who wanted to see Royal Hunt, Ken Hensley and Blind Guardian were basically the same people, and a lot of them had to make choices. As a result, only dedicated fans gathered in DK Gorbunova, which can however be considered an advantage, for everybody knew the band, knew the songs and came to listen to the music they loved, not just because it is the only heavy metal show in three months, so you gotta be there for there is no other opportunity anyway.
As it was expected, Royal Hunt started their set with songs off their latest studio release "The Mission". Already the first couple of tracks exposed the differences between the current show and the one we saw two years ago. The sound was MUCH better (there is just no way you can have a good sound in MDM, I guess), and the musicians even more enthusiastic. The new drummer fits excellently into the band, and John West is as close to the ideal Royal Hunt singer as possible. Nevertheless, there is still a shadow of D.C. Cooper in old songs, and whatever John does, I still miss the incredible charm of Daniel Christopher (that's his full name) a little bit. Speaking about the vocal department, the band decided to perform without backing vocalists this time, and in my opinion it was not the best decision. Backing vocals performed by Steen, Jacob and Andre were too low in the mix all the time, and though some people claim they were pre-recorded and played from a tape, I wonder then why there was such a problem with hearing them. However these were all just minor problems, and they were not enough to spoil the excellent show.
Royal Hunt did not concentrate on their last two studio releases, they delivered a set that was covering their entire career. For me the highlights were "Wasted Time" and "Last Goodbye", and speaking about the new songs, I must mention "Days Of No Trust", the only ballad in the set that was graced by an extremely emotional performance of John West. The man also brought cheers from the crowd when he appeared on stage wearing some traditional Indian dress with feathers all over him and his microphone stand.
Before returning for the encore, Andre and John arranged a sort of contest for an autographed guitars. Somebody told Andre before the shows that each ticket is numbered so if he asks the audience to come up with some figures their combination would be found only on one ticket. I don't know what indeed happened, but the same combination was found on three tickets, so the guitar had to be given to the one who drew the shortest straw. Following that, the show continued. First Andre played a keyboard solo, then the entire band performed two tracks from the "Fear" album, and finally, the grand finale - "Total Recall", again from "The Mission". The outro from "Epilogue" ended the set that lasted for a total of about 1 hour 45 minutes.
Nearly everyone whose opinion I have heard after the show was complaining that some of his favorite songs were missing in the set. However the problem was that each of them named different favorite songs - Royal Hunt have created very many fantastic tunes, after all. This aside, Moscow was once again treated to a fantastic show full of good music and friendly atmosphere. It was great to finally see Royal Hunt in full glory, and I hope they will come here again soon, so it's not the "last goodbye", but just a casual "see you"
9.Day In, Day Out
10.River Of Pain
12.Dreamline (guitar solo)
13.Days Of No Trust
14.Message To God
18.Keyboard solo / Martial Arts
20.Cold City Lights
Special thanks to Andrei and Yefim (Roxx Productions) and Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) for accreditation at the show and news conference
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