Echo & The Bunnymen
~by Matthew Heilman

2004 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Echo & The Bunnymen, one of alternative music’s most important and influential bands.  Along with The Cure and Joy Division, the Bunnymen’s early revitalization of Psychedelia and the then contemporary Post Punk formula paved the way for countless bands to emerge throughout the 1980s. Few ever outshined their predecessors and the ones that did, basically owed the blueprints of their sound to the first definitive wave of innovative acts.  The Bunnymen’s influence is still discernible in newer acts like Interpol, Radiohead, and The Rapture, and even more recently, the band’s lush masterpiece “The Killing Moon” was used in the opening sequence of the surreal cult film “Donnie Darko.”  My earliest memory of the Bunnymen was at the ripe age of seven, when I saw “The Lost Boys” for the first time and asked, “Who is that covering The Doors?”  The influence of The Doors on the Bunnymen is hardly difficult to detect—the psychedelic guitar styles, jazzy drums, and Ian McCulloch’s cryptic lyrical genius and playfully eccentric persona.  Many regarded Ian the Jim Morrison of New Wave. Whatever the case, the most valid explanation as to why the band has endured is simply because they made immaculately good music that is just as powerful and transcendent today as it was when it was first released.

My interest in the Bunnymen came much later than I would care to admit.  For whatever reason, I didn’t fully explore the band’s discography until only a few summers ago.  At that time, I was trying to find earlier Goth and Post Punk acts to quell my insatiable need for heavy drum cascades, propulsive bass lines, and whacked out guitar intensity. I had my fill of the essential Joy Division, Bauhaus, Cure, Siouxsie, etc and I needed more.  The ‘Goth’ of my generation, as I have pointed out repeatedly, lacks the urgency of early Post Punk and formative British Goth acts.  Though the Bunnymen have never really been included in the Goth canon so to speak, their music fits comfortably alongside some of the greatest bands that defined the style.

Rhino/Warner Bros. has rightfully seen fit to re-release the first five Echo & The Bunnymen albums in honor of the band’s anniversary. The albums have been remastered and include bonus tracks and additional liner notes, and each CD is specially priced at $11!  I have to admit right now that I have not purchased these new editions of the albums, so I cannot really say much about the specifics of the bonus material or the new packaging.   What I would like to do here, though, is merely take this opportunity to express my admiration for the band, and the original versions.  My intention is to urge readers, who have yet to familiarize themselves with this band’s fantastic releases, to go out and buy these discs immediately in one fell swoop!  Or, perhaps describe the albums enough so that the reader can discern which album they’d like to start with.

Crocodiles was the band’s debut album in 1980, and features “Rescue,” one of the band’s biggest hits.  This release finds the band at their rawest, having yet to emerge from the shadow of punk that was cast over England’s music scene in the late 1970s.  The album’s beloved title track, as well as the live favourites “Do It Clean” and “All That Jazz,” are forward thinking punk through and through, charged and relentless, yet spiced with a new sense of groove and atmosphere.  The brilliant opening cut “Going Up” and the splintered dynamics of “Pride” had just as much to do with foreshadowing what was to become the ‘post punk’ sound as Joy Division or The Cure’s early work had done.  Moodier tracks like “Pictures On My Wall” and “Monkeys” contribute a more dramatic flair, allowing Ian’s vocals to breathe, bellow, and soar above majestic kaleidoscopic backdrops.  The gripping melodies found in “Stars Are Stars” and the strange imagery that encompasses “Villiers Terrace” (“People rollin’ ‘round on the carpet”) help round out a stellar album that is often lauded as the band’s best.  Certainly it is the band’s most unbridled release.  The bonus tracks here include the B-side “Simple Stuff” as well as explosive live recordings from the “Shine So Hard” EP from 1981.

From a Goth perspective, Heaven Up Here, the band’s second release from 1981, is their masterpiece.  My personal favourite, it finds the band animated by a deep sense of restlessness, angst, and agitation.  The album kicks off with the unforgettable “Show Of Strength,” which is without question my all time favourite Bunnymen track.  Ian’s voice is at its most commanding, powerfully reverberating atop Will Sergeant’s majestic guitar work, from trickling arpeggios to overdriven angular stabs to climactic enveloping wails of ominous psychedelic fuzz.  Dynamic rhythms, powerful, punchy drumming and foreboding bass lines, the song sets an imposing tone for the rest of the album, and the listener is struck with a sense that something epic and grandiose is about to enfold.  “With A Hip” and the title track are pure rhythmically driven Post Punk at its finest.  The climactic classic “Over The Wall” begins with a subdued whisper of hypnotic bass and guitar effects that soon explode into a mammoth drum driven masterpiece that was the astonishing highlight of many of the band’s early shows.  “The Disease” and “All My Colours” show the band at their most desperate and melancholic hours, the former a claustrophobic, dizzying number comprised of minimalist guitar strums, weird delay effects, and a vocal performance riddled with eerie vulnerability.  “All My Colours” is led by the pensive heavy drum cascades of Pete De Freitas, somber acoustic chords offset with echoing melodic leads and Ian’s bitter lamentation “That box you gave me burned nicely.”  The most accessible, though by no means unimportant track is “A Promise,” a lighter quirky track that laid the groundwork for many of the band’s most popular songs that would appear in later albums.  Ian’s pleading bellows here are unmatched (even by himself).  One of the things that the Bunnymen achieved along with The Cure (although not quite as widespread as Robert and co) was the ability to create memorable and loveable pop songs that proved it wasn’t necessary to sacrifice poetic substance.  This edition of Heaven Up Here includes the stark and highly recommended B-side “Broke My Neck,” as well as additional live cuts.  This is an album I have listened to repeatedly for almost three years now and I have yet to tire of it.  Others have been listening to it with the same passionate devotion for over twenty years! Absolutely essential.

Porcupine was the band’s third release from 1983, and is one of their most intriguing and absorbing releases.  It is also often regarded as their most ‘difficult’ release.  The manic mood is not quite as easy to swallow, as we go from the straight forward pop flirtations of the highly successful singles such as “The Back Of Love” and “The Cutter” to the suffocating gloom of the title track (which again, in terms of ‘difficulty,’ abruptly shifts from a swooning dirge to an up-tempo jam with the strange refrain “Pining for the pork of the porcupine”).  On this release, the band expanded their musical backdrop to include authentic string accompaniments, cellos and violins pop up throughout the disc, but more or less to accentuate the band’s quirkiness.  The ethereal orchestral elements are yet to appear.  Here, they are more percussive and mischievous.  While some of the album is more progressive, with odd tempos and unpredictable changes, there are indeed some great highlights and it serves as the perfect transition from the band’s earlier work and the more grandiose arrangements of their forthcoming releases.  “Ripeness” is a more refined return to the rawness of “Crocodiles” with the same kind of shifty, jagged rhythms but with a more fluid grace and melodicism. The tender moods of “Higher Hell” and the peculiar drive of “Clay” are among the many highlights on the album, and I have personally found that “Porcupine” is an album that might not make so deep an impact the first few listens – but once the listener is used to it, it will rank as the most fascinating release.   The bonus material consists of mostly alternate demo tracks, but it does include one B-side as well as an extended remix of “Never Stop,” another of the band’s immensely popular singles that was released just prior to Porcupine.

1984 saw the release of Ocean Rain, the band’s sublime, haunting and most mature release.  This is the album that yielded the ghostly ballad “The Killing Moon,” one of the band’s most enduring hits. There is a dazzling array of emotions found throughout the disc, from the sinisterly erotic “Nocturnal Me” to the irresistibly catchy pop of tracks like “Silver” and “Seven Seas.”  The band’s quirky side is at its most enjoyable and at its oddest in “Thorn Of Crowns” (“Cu cu cu cucumber / ca ca ca cabbage”).  Musically, the arrangements are the band’s most complex yet, with more elaborate orchestral accompaniment, dense layers of chiming, emotive guitars and melodic bass hooks.  The whole album is touched with a soft reverb to produce enthralling icy textures for “The Killing Moon” and the chilling swing of the sneakily creepy “Yo Yo Man,” but warmer, tender aural embraces are masterfully created for the sprawling beauty of the title track that still sends chills down my spine every time I hear it.   With Ocean Rain, it seems as though the strongest elements of the band’s past have finally reached a point of complete and total immersion. Though the album lacks the unbridled, rhythmic urgency of their first two releases, it is a more passionate, romantic, and ethereal release that is easy to love from the first listen.  It’s hard to imagine any fans of dark music not being utterly enraptured by this disc.  Again, from a more biased ‘Goth’ perspective, Ocean Rain is probably the most appropriate starting point for those enamoured with the softer side of Goth.  Ocean Rain is the Bunnymen’s Disintegration if we are going to speak in those terms, which I suppose would place Heaven Up Here in the ranks of Faith and Pornography.  Anyway, Mac, if you ever condescend to read this, I promise I’ll never do that again.  This new edition of Ocean Rain features the awesome B-side “Angels & Devils” as well as more live cuts and alternate studio versions of the songs.

This brings us to 1987 now, for the band’s self-titled fifth album, which I have to admit, I am not as ecstatic about.  It does however contain two great and very popular tracks with the delightful “Lips Like Sugar,” which features Ian’s gargantuan bellowing chorus that just kicks my ass every time I hear it, and the slinky groove of “Bedbugs & Ballyhoo,” complete with organ accompaniment by Ray Manzarek himself.  The ‘problem’ with this disc is that it is a bit too polished, and of all the albums, despite being the newest, it sounds the most dated.  It’s very ‘80s’ in another words, with lots of synthetic backing, and up-tempo pop flirtations.  Even for me though, despite how young I was in 1987, I remember pop radio and I have a soft spot for that sound.  I can imagine that folks that are older than me will be struck by the same kind of nostalgic warmth.  The songs are strong, the guitar work is still cool, the drums still punchy, but the urgency and dangerous romanticism is missing.  It just doesn’t have the same appeal as the band’s earlier work.  It is not to be missed entirely, but perhaps pick up the previous releases first.  The remastered version contains several bonus tracks, including another big hit for the band with “Bring On The Dancing Horses” from the “Pretty In Pink” soundtrack.  I suppose what is missing here is the “People Are Strange” cover, which I feel would have complimented this new collection rather nicely, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Speaking of the bonus tracks, I do have to point out that there are several other B-sides that should have found their way onto these discs in place of some of the live stuff, including “Way Up And Out We Go” “The Puppet” “The Subject” and a few others.  Had all those been included, I think I would have actually bought these a second time, since I only have rough mp3’s of these tracks.  But I suppose the box set still needs to retain its selling points.

The bottom line however is that these releases are all readily available again, and at great prices.  Various sources have lauded each of the first four Bunnymen albums as their very best, so truthfully, you can’t lose.  If you have ever been curious about the band, now is the time to catch up.  Depending on your own personal tastes, start out with the dark grandeur of Heaven Up Here or the otherworldly grace of Ocean Rain or just follow along chronologically.  But whatever you do, don’t miss out and class up your collection with these essential gems.

Echo & The Bunnymen is:
Ian McCulloch – vocals and guitar
Will Sergeant – guitar
Les Pattinson – bass
Pete De Freitas – drums

Echo & The Bunnymen – Official Site:

Ian McCulloch and The Pre-Raphaelite Tradition (A fantastic academic analysis of Ian’s lyrics by Kristin F. Smith):

Album & Track Listings:

Crocodiles (1980):
1. Going Up
2. Stars Are Stars
3. Pride
4. Monkeys
5. Crocodiles
6. Rescue
7. Villier's Terrace
8. Pictures On My Wall
9. All That Jazz
10. Happy Death Men
11. Do It Clean
12. Read It In Books
13. Simple Stuff
14. Villier's Terrace (Early Version)
15. Pride (Early Version)
16. Simple Stuff
17. Crocodiles (Live)
18. Zimbo (Live)
19. All That Jazz (Live)
20. Over The Wall (Live)

Heaven Up Here (1981):
1. Show Of Strength
2. With A Hip
3. Over The Wall
4. It Was A Pleasure
5. Promise
6. Heaven Up Here
7. Disease
8. All My Colours
9. No Dark Things
10. Turquoise Days
11. All I Want
12. Broke My Neck (Long Version)
13. Show Of Strength (Live)
14. Disease (Live)
15. All I Want (Live)
16. Zimbo (Live)

Porcupine (1983):
1. The Cutter
2. The Back Of Love
3. My White Devil
4. Clay
5. Porcupine
6. Heads Will Roll
7. Ripeness
8. Higher Hell
9. Gods Will Be Gods
10. In Bluer Skies
11. Fuel (B side)
12. The Cutter (Alternate Version)
13. My White Devil (Alternate Version)
14. Porcupine (Alternate Version)
15. Ripeness (Alternate Version)
16. Gods Will Be Gods (Alternate Version)
17. Never Stop (Discotheque)

Ocean Rain (1984):
1. Silver
2. Nocturnal Me
3. Crystal Days
4. The Yo Yo Man
5. Thorn Of Crowns
6. The Killing Moon
7. Seven Seas
8. My Kingdom
9. Ocean Rain
10. Angels And Devils
11. All You Need Is Love
12. The Killing Moon
13. Stars Are Stars
14. Villiers Terrace
15. Silver
16. My Kingdom (Live)
17. Ocean Rain (Live)

Echo & The Bunnymen (1987):
1. The Game
2. Over You
3. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
4. All In Your Mind
5. Bombers Bay
6. Lips Like Sugar
7. Lost And Found
8. New Direction
9. Blue Blue Ocean
10. Satellite
11. All My Life
12. Jimmy Brown
13. Hole In The Holy
14. Soul Kitchen
15. The Game
16. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
17. Over Your Shoulder
18. Bring On The Dancing Horses

Get out of the Garage!!!
~by Basim

Yowza! There’s little to no resources on how to make it in the deathrock/gothic scene, which is probably why we have a scarcity of original bands. If cool bands can’t play outside their garages, sad disco music will surely eliminate the lot of us. This is why I asked the frontmen of two happen’n bands in our scene about establishing yourself, promoting, and the whole kit and caboodle. Mucho thanks to both Andy Deane and Voltaire, their advice should help us all!!


About Starting Up

Q: How did you secure an initial fan base? Did you actively cater towards a particular demographic when promoting shows, projecting an image?

A: Well, I believe there may have been special circumstances to my building an audience so quickly because of the nature of my first show. I played my first gig in March of 1995 and at that time, comedy and Goth DID NOT MIX! Or at least they weren't supposed to. So the fact that my show was so different from the usual Gothic act I think caused a bit of a stir. Also, the fact that I did so much interacting with the audience was very unusual. At that first show, I told stories between songs, as I still do, and half way through the set, I stopped and we played Goth Bingo. Of course the game was totally rigged! And the winning number was 666. ; ) I had a mailing list out that I invited people to sign so that I could invite them to my next show, a technique that is VERY important to building an audience. The mailing list itself was actually a skull encrusted book I called The Book of the Dead, that looked like it was dug out of Poe's grave. So the book itself was very inviting.. and people seemed excited to put their names in it. Mind you this was before the internet so everything was done via the mail. I would NEVER send out flyers with a computer generated address on a sticker. That seemed WAY too impersonal to me. Instead I would send the invites in black envelopes with their names and addresses hand written in silver ink. It looked like someone had gone to a lot of trouble to invite them to the show and I'm sure a lot of people were excited to receive these mailings even if they didn't particularly care about the show itself. ; )

Finally, I refused to just hand people flyers at clubs. God knows that at the end of a weekend of clubbing, my pockets were full of them and I would just throw them away without even looking at half of them. So I created a small, 8 page comic book called Oh My Goth!. I would draw these little books, xerox about 500 of them at Kinkos, fold them, staple them and hand them out at the local Goth clubs. I got the idea from those religious tracts they give you on the subway that have a picture of Bart Simpson on the cover. You look at it and think, "Cool, A Simpsons comic book!" but by the end there is religious scripture explaining why poor little Bart is going straight to hell! In my books, Oh My Goth!, I would be chased by the minions of Satan as they tried to prevent me from playing my next show. And then of course, whatever they did would actually cause the show to happen, and naturally the information for the next show would be on the last page. The idea was to give people a little free entertainment. If they liked it, perhaps they would be inspired to come to the show. There were nights were I would look around at the Bank, the big NY Goth Club at the time, and everyone would be sitting around reading those little Oh My Goth! mini comics. Eventually, Oh My Goth! took on a life of its own. I got a publishing deal and a full length Oh My Goth! comic book was released. To this day, it remains a GREAT way to cross pollinate and to attract people to the music, who perhaps were only into comics.

Q: What did you do to book gigs early on, before you had any sort of publicity... How did you get promoters/venues to take you seriously?

A: I would talk to promoters in the scene that I was familiar with. They seemed pretty open to giving me a shot. And I played for free (and in shitty time slots) A LOT in the beginning. Truth be told, I had a pretty strong turnout at my shows early on and so the clubs were fairly eager to book me. Subsequently, in time, the time slots got better until I was bringing in enough people that I was consistently being booked as the head-lining act. It wasn't until I got signed though, and had a national release, that the money got to be substantial.


Q: How did you go about putting together a press kit for magazines/webzines? What advice would you give to a band putting one together - what are some good rules to follow..?

A: Because I was already a stop-motion animator and director, I already had a press kit full of press clippings... so I just added to that any bit of press that I got as a musician and it seemed like I had a really full press kit. (even if there were only a couple articles about the music, specifically) A word of advice: Keep in mind that a lot of lazy magazine writers just copy what's in the press kit when they are reviewing your CD. So the trick is to write in your press kit what you will want to see written about you in a magazine! And you probably WILL see it written word for word in a magazine at some point!

Q: How did you shop yourselves to labels, and what helped you get recognized by the local press: image, fans, sound?

A: I was lucky and didn't have to shop myself to a label. I had developed enough of a fan base and was getting enough press before getting signed that it attracted the attention of Cleopatra and Projekt, the two big Goth labels. I played my first gig with the whole band opening up for Switchblade Symphony and Christian Death in NYC. When those bands got back to California at the end of the tour, they told Cleopatra that the band that had opened for them in NY had a really original sound. That got Cleopatra to call us. Eventually though, I realized the deal wasn't right and I passed. Then I opened for Black Tape For a Blue Girl when they came through NY in the hopes that band leader and president of Projekt, Sam Rosenthal would get a chance to hear us. Unfortunately, I discovered after the show that he was backstage the whole time and missed my show. However, I had handed out a couple hundred cassettes of our demo during the show and one of them fell into the hands of his then girlfriend and bandmate (now wife) Lisa. So they apparently listened to my demo on their way back to Chicago where they were based. That week I got a call from Sam and he communicated his desire to come to NY to see us play a showcase for his label which we did. Soon after we signed with Projekt and have released 3 LPs to date with more to come!


Q: Lots of bands have financial problems early on, how did you go about recording songs, and putting together a demo/ep/single? Any advice to bands looking to get in a studio or D.I.Y about recording?

A: Sorry, don't know.

Q: How do mp3s fit into your usual methods of distribution? When you record an LP, do you advocate it circulating on the internet in it's entirety, or just a few selected tracks?

A: I will put a couple of tracks out there on the net to whet people's appetites... but the bottom line is that I want people to buy the CD. Unfortunately there are thousands of people that don't think musicians should get paid for their work. I get tons of emails from people that start out, " I am your biggest fan. Can you send me the lyrics to your songs." The lyrics to all of my songs are printed in the booklets that come with the CDs so, naturally these people clue me into the fact that they have never bought any of my CDs. It's really sad. I have a son to feed, I have bills to pay, but for some reason, people feel they should own my work and the work of other countless musicians without giving a red cent to the person who created it. I am all for streaming music on the internet, I think the net should be one huge listening station and that you should be able to listen to any song before you choose whether or not to buy the record. But downloading and owning is different! . Truth be told, I will stop caring the day I can walk into the supermarket, fill my cart with groceries and wave at the cashier as I walk out of the store proclaiming, "I'm going to take this food home now and I'm going to eat it. Maybe if I like it, I will buy something from you in the future.. or maybe I'll just fill my cart again and walk out. By the way, I LOVE your store, I'm your biggest fan." So, yeah, don't get me started. In all fairness though, I will say that I DO get emails from file sharers who say they got turned onto my music by file sharing and then went and bought my CDs.

Sustaining Your Appeal / Creative Control

Q: After you have a consistent show turn out, how do you sustain their interests? Do label's or fans' expectations influence what you produce as an artist? Is there a catch-22 when it comes to weighing artistic integrity and progressive ideas against fans' loyalties, label interests, and ultimately, the money you make?

A: The way to keep the interest of the fans is to consistently write good music. The way to consistently write good music is to be true to yourself. My formula is that I only write and release music that I would want to listen to. Then I cross my fingers and hope that there is an audience for it. But the day you start writing what you THINK people want to hear is the day you start writing drivel. So you might as well call it quits at that point. (In my humble opinion).


Voltaire can be found here

Andy Deane

About Starting Up

Q: How did you secure an initial fan base? Did you actively cater towards a particular demographic when promoting shows, projecting an image?

A~ At first we weren’t really concerned with who was there so much as someone was there. I think that we used the Goth thing to our advantage unintentionally at first as there wasn’t much of that type of music around here at the time. So of course we’d throw the word on a flyer and every kid that was hungry for that type of music would crawl out of the woodwork for the shows.

Q: What did you do to book gigs early on, before you had any sort of publicity... How did you get promoters/venues to take you seriously?

A~ At first we handed out demo tapes and would play at parties or whatever. Then we started talking to clubs here in C’ville and in Richmond. We were very focused on the local scene at the time and it’s still very important to us.


Q: How did you go about putting together a press kit for magazines/webzines? What advice would you give to a band putting one together - what are some good rules to follow..?

A~ We took a look at what some other bands had done and used what ideas we liked and threw out the ones we didn’t. I would advise a new band to keep it short. I know that most record executives aren’t going to read ten pages about a band they have never heard of. Keeping it to one sheet of info (bio, discography, profiles) and one photo looks very professional and may get some extra attention.

Q: How did you shop yourselves to labels, and what helped you get recognized by the local press: image, fans, sound?

A~ We just sent off a CD and our promo pack and waited. There really wasn’t much more that we could do at the time. Lucky for us everything worked out in our favor. As for the local press, I think that our strong local following got them looking our way. There was a long span of time where we were in feature articles at least once a month… That kind of coverage certainly helped us!


Q: Lots of bands have financial problems early on, how did you go about recording songs, and putting together a demo/ep/single? Any advice to bands looking to get in a studio or D.I.Y about recording?

A~ I’ll start with saying sometimes less is better. If you’re on a really tight budget and need to cut a demo, focus on three songs instead of trying to record a full-length CD. Three really solid songs is far better than ten that sound rushed. As for getting in a studio, look for digital recording, which is pretty easy to find now… It saves money on buying tape and cuts editing time in half. If you’re doing it at home, just be patient with your work and check out your sound in a few different sound systems before calling it final. Plus, a cheap mastering job at your local studio probably won’t cost too much and can mean a world of difference.

Q: How do mp3s fit into your usual methods of distribution? When you record an LP, do you advocate it circulating on the internet in it's entirety, or just a few selected tracks?

A~ When you first start out, plan on giving away your music! You might have a few sales here and there, but be sure to keep everything available to the public. Later on you can slow down on releasing everything on the web… not that there won’t be a fair share of pirating…

Sustaining Your Appeal / Creative Control

Q: After you have a consistant show turn out, how do you sustain their interests? Do label's or fans' expectations influence what you produce as an artist? Is there a catch-22 when it comes to weighing artistic integrity and progressive ideas against fans' loyalties, label interests, and ultimately, the money you make?

A~ I think that the most important thing is to make sure that you are personally happy with the work you produce. I know that some people get into the music industry simply to make a few bucks, and I really wouldn’t know what to tell them except to just do whatever their label tells them to. As for me, I keep writing music that is true to myself and the fans seem to pick up on that. I think that roots are very important to a band’s integrity. As for there being a catch-22, I don’t think so… Everything is laid out in front of you and you just have to decide what works best for you. If you decide early on that you won’t compromise your art, then there is no problem.

And finally

Q: Any local movers and rabble rousers that you'd reccomend newer bands look into if they're interested in promoting, recording or distributing their music?

A~ Look into fanzines and webzines! Plus, try to hit up labels for distribution. Long before we signed with Metropolis, they were sending out Remains for us… The worst thing you can do is get a rejection letter, and that does no harm whatsoever.

Bella Morte can be found here:

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 Seraphim’s 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 you’re 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, they’re sent away for mastering. It’s 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 people’s musical interests are pretty healthy here.

As far as the type of music that Seven Seraphim does, I don’t think that there is much of a scene for it here in the US right now, mainly because most people here aren’t 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 can’t say for sure, but while I think the majority of American metal fans haven’t heard of Seven Seraphim, I think we’re starting to become somewhat known among the die-hard metal fans here.  As far as differences of opinion go, I can’t really make a distinction between Europe and the US because every review I’ve read, regardless of which country it’s originated from, has had a completely different perspective on the CD from one reviewer to the next.

To me, that’s really cool—my 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: I’m going to disagree with that assessment of American music fans—for example, I think Andrew WK and the Darkness are actually somewhat “happy-metal” sounding and they both seem to be doing fairly well here. I don’t think it’s really a cultural thing as much as it is a marketing thing.

People here just aren’t as exposed to these different types of metal as they are in other countries throughout the world. I don’t think that Americans would culturally dislike classically-influenced metal or any other kind of metal, necessarily, but rather, I think they haven’t 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 ‘look at me, I’m sick and disturbed’ nu-metal attitude off of the airwaves?

A: As far as radio and TV are concerned, I don’t 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 hasn’t 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. We’ll see.

J: I have a few guesses as to what they may be, but I’d rather hear it from you - What musical influences shaped Seven Seraphim’s 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 Seraphim’s 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 “upbeat.” Again, I think that’s 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 it’s great that you perceived the music in such an original way. I think that’s very cool. Music is such a relative thing, so it’s great for me to see everyone’s 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 wouldn’t 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, I’m 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 haven’t heard of Seven Seraphim -and probably haven’t even heard a single guitar solo in their downcast, angsty, miserable existences- what would you say?

A: Wow. I haven’t met any metal fans here in America that haven’t 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, Joel—I 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

Scarlet Records:

The End Records (US Distribution):