Seven Seraphim / Andrew Szucs Interview
~by Joel Steudler
Through the miracle of communication and
pornography that is the internet, I was recently able to correspond with
the wildly talented guitarist and driving force behind Seven Seraphim:
Andrew Szucs. Seven Seraphimís recently released debut album Believe
in Angels is a high energy romp through neoclassical power metal with
a distinctly American flavor... which is less than shocking since the band
is rooted in the midwest US of A. Andrew was kind enough to put up
with my nattering and answered each of the endless torrent of questions
I presented to him, as evidenced below.
Joel: Your press material says Believe in Angels was mastered at Mastering Room AB in Sweden, and youíre signed to an Italian record label... this is somewhat surprising for a quartet from Cincinnati, Ohio in the USA. Why was it necessary for you to seek out production and label support from overseas?
Andrew: Well, mastering is actually something that is done post-production. After recordings have been produced, engineered, and mixed, theyíre sent away for mastering. Itís a finalizing step that all professional recordings go through, for example, while Bob Ludwig at Masterdisk NYC may have mastered a lot of famous American recordings, the production was actually taken care of by a producer like, say, Bob Rock. Basically, the mastering engineer compresses and EQs the recordings so that they will retain their essential character on virtually any stereo system without damaging its speakers or playback system.
I produced, mixed, and engineered the Seven Seraphim CD with additional help from Jeff Higgens and Vic Faye (Chastain, Lethal, etc.) here in Cincinnati, Ohio. After that was completed, I put together some promo packages to shop to labels.
Several labels were interested in releasing the CD, but Stefano and Filippo at Scarlet were really enthusiastic about the music, and I felt that they had a good grasp of what Seven Seraphim was all about. After I signed on with them, the final mixes were sent for mastering at Mastering Room AB in Sweden, who has mastered the recordings of bands like Meshuggah and Soilwork.
Anyhow, all that stuff aside, I think you really just wanted to know why I signed with a European label as opposed to an American label. The answer to that is, simply put, the only offers I received were from European labels.
J: This ties into question #1, so you may have touched on it already, but what are your thoughts on the metal scene in the USA, as far as the commercial side of things are concerned?
A: I think with the Internet, Americans have a lot more access to music than they had before, so in terms of that, I think peopleís musical interests are pretty healthy here.
As far as the type of music that Seven Seraphim does, I donít think that there is much of a scene for it here in the US right now, mainly because most people here arenít exposed to this kind of music very often. I think if people were made aware of this type of music through TV and radio there would be a much larger audience for it here.
J: What differences have you seen (if any) in the way fans from the US and fans from Europe have received the album? Does the American metal audience even know you exist at this point?
A: I canít say for sure, but while I think the majority of American metal fans havenít heard of Seven Seraphim, I think weíre starting to become somewhat known among the die-hard metal fans here. As far as differences of opinion go, I canít really make a distinction between Europe and the US because every review Iíve read, regardless of which country itís originated from, has had a completely different perspective on the CD from one reviewer to the next.
To me, thatís really coolómy goal for the music was to maintain a certain flavor while allowing people to interpret certain things in their own unique way. So far, the many different reactions that people have had over the music seem to really reflect that original intention.
J: What effect has the current world political climate had on you as American musicians trying to promote yourselves and build a fanbase in Europe?
A: Great question. For the most part, I think Europe has been pretty accepting of Seven Seraphim as a new band, but there have been maybe one or two reviews I have seen that have had more of a political agenda to them rather than just discussing the music.
J: Based on my own observations, metal fans from Germany, Italy, and some of the other mid-European nations support bands that play a fun, upbeat style more than anywhere else. Is there some kind of cultural barrier or society-wide cynicism in the USA that prevents us from enjoying happy metal?
A: Iím going to disagree with that assessment of American music fansófor example, I think Andrew WK and the Darkness are actually somewhat ďhappy-metalĒ sounding and they both seem to be doing fairly well here. I donít think itís really a cultural thing as much as it is a marketing thing.
People here just arenít as exposed to these different types of metal as they are in other countries throughout the world. I donít think that Americans would culturally dislike classically-influenced metal or any other kind of metal, necessarily, but rather, I think they havenít been as exposed to it as much as people have been in other countries. It would be nice if TV and radio would give it a chance again, but I think that will just take some time.
J: What will it take (short of an earthquake that swallows up all the record company executives in LA) to get some creative guitar playing back onto US radio/TV and some of the depressing Ďlook at me, Iím sick and disturbedí nu-metal attitude off of the airwaves?
A: As far as radio and TV are concerned, I donít know. The G3 tours that Joe Satriani and Steve Vai have consistently put together seem to really get people enthused about the guitar, but unfortunately, that still hasnít translated into much radio or TV airplay, yet.
Still, bands like the Darkness seem to be making a significant dent in US sales, so things may be coming around. Weíll see.
J: I have a few guesses as to what they may be, but Iíd rather hear it from you - What musical influences shaped Seven Seraphimís sound? Was there any particular musician that prompted you to pick up a guitar and head down the road to where you are now?
A: Sure, when I was 12, Yngwie Malmsteen was the first player I heard that made me want to do this stuff. From there, I got into Jason Becker, Ronnie Le Tekro, Akira Takasaki, Randy Rhoads, Zakk Wylde, Jake E Lee, George Lynch, Tony Macalpine, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Scott Henderson, etc. After high school, I went to college majoring in Jazz/Studio Guitar here at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. There, I got into players like Django Reinhardt, Johnny Smith, Bucky Pizzarelli, Herb Ellis, Hank Garland, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Ben Monder, Joe Diorio and George Van Eps. I am also a big fan of Uli Roth, Geoff Tyson, Eric Johnson and Nashville picker Brent Mason.
I guess the musical sound comes from all of my influences, both guitar and non guitar related; ranging from classcially-influenced and progressive metal, to the jazz music I experienced both at school and on countless gigs.
J: Do you see Seven Seraphimís style evolving in any new directions in the future, or will you try to recapture the spirit of upbeat, melodic guitar fun from Believe in Angels on your next album?
Actually, this is the first time that I have heard the Seven Seraphim music referred to as ďupbeat.Ē Again, I think thatís further evidence of the many unique interpretations of the music I was talking about earlier. Really, only one song on the CD modulates to a major key, so while that reaction surprises me, at the same time I think that itís great that you perceived the music in such an original way. I think thatís very cool. Music is such a relative thing, so itís great for me to see everyoneís different take on the Seven Seraphim CD.
In any case, the Believe in Angels CD actually just came from sounds that I was hearing inside my head. Those sounds wouldnít go away, so I figured that they must have had some sort of significance, and decided to record them.
As far as new CDs go, Iím still hearing reoccurring sounds in my head, so the CDs will evolve as the sounds inside my head continue to evolve.
J: If you could beam a message directly into the brains of young American metal fans who havenít heard of Seven Seraphim -and probably havenít even heard a single guitar solo in their downcast, angsty, miserable existences- what would you say?
A: Wow. I havenít met any metal fans here in America that havenít heard a guitar solo, but if I had to transmit something into the head of a person in that type of situation, I guess I would just transmit one of the Seven Seraphim songs as my message and hope that he/she liked it (shameless self-promotion).
Anyhow, thanks very much for the interview,
JoelóI really appreciate this opportunity to talk with you and your readers.
Thanks again, and thanks to all the Seven Seraphim fans that have supported
the CD, so far. Take care!
Seven Seraphim is:
Greg Hupp - Vocals
Andrew Szucs - Guitars
Chris Simpson - Bass
Brian Harris - Drums
The End Records (US Distribution):