Interview By Kimmo Tattari / January 2009
Hailing from Sweden, Crystal Eyes have proubly carried the flag of traditional heavy metal well over a decade now. As the band just released their 6th album ‘Chained’, the main songwriter and guitarist Mikael Dahl and the vocalist Nico Adamsen visited the Steel Mill to talk about the new album, and heavy metal in general.
So, you guys have just released a new album called ’Chained’. How’s the response been so far?
Mikael: The response is overwhelming both from the fans and the media. The main thing in the reviews is about the musical influences from bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept, Black Sabbath, Manowar etc. and that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. It’s not like we copy anything, but our aim has always been to sound like a unique mix of the great Metal bands from the eighties that we all grew up with. Every Crystal Eyes record has been one step back to the roots of Heavy Metal and our fans seem to just love that path.
How was the writing process this time? I understood that on your earlier albums it’s been Mikael’s task only. Were the other members involved this time?
Mikael: Since 1995, when Niclas Karlsson left, I’ve been the only songwriter in the band. I’ve written all songs on every Crystal Eyes record, and it’s the same on ‘Chained’. My very good friend Andreas Götesson has helped me with the lyrics already since the beginning, but this is the first record where I have written all lyrics, except for one track where I got some help from Nico.
I started to write the songs right after ‘Dead City Dreaming’, and recorded demo versions of all tracks with my vocals. I had no certain direction in mind when composing or anything, as always I just wrote the songs as the melodies came into my head and I didn’t have a clue how the album would sound in the end. I had about 14-15 songs finished or half-finished when it was time to start rehearsing for the new record.
We had a vote inside the band and had some friends to help us out to choose the best songs. And 9 songs in 42 minutes seems to be a magic combination…just like the good old LP 🙂
‘Chained’ was Nico’s second album with Crystal Eyes. Was it different to make this one compared to the ‘Dead City Dreaming’?
Nico: Yes, for me, personally, the difference was that I sang a little bit more ‘loose’ on this one. I tried to take a clearer hard rock kind of approach to the singing, instead of the classic metal singing.
The actual recording was the same as ‘Dead City Dreaming’: 5 days of singing, 8 – 9 hours a day.
You’ve been with the band since 2006, am I right? How did you end up being the frontman of Crystal Eyes?
Nico: You’re right. They auditioned for a singer and mentioned that the singer should be somewhere between Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, Eric Adams and Ralf… the guy from Primal Fear.
Now, all those singers, except the guy from Primal Fear, are my favourite singers of all time, and that will never ever change! So, I sent a cassette tape with a live version of me singing a song from each singer. If I remember correctly, I sang ‘Children Of The Damned’, ‘Metal Gods’, ‘Children Of The Sea’,‘Kill With Power’ and ‘Colony 13’. Apparently they liked it and I joined the band.
Did you have an outside producer during the recording process of ‘Chained’?
Mikael: I’ve always been the producer of the music during the recordings. I was also responsible for mixing ‘Vengeance Descending’ and‘Confessions Of The Maker’, but the fact is that I hate to mix my own music. Before the recording of ‘Dead City Dreamin’ we felt it was time to get the sound we were looking for, and find a real professional to take care of the mixing. Fredrik Nordström at Studio Fredman has made many great Heavy Metal mixes, so we got him for the job. He came to our own studio for one day to set the sound, and then we recorded everything on our own. After finishing the recording we took the material to Studio Fredman, where Fredrik did the final mix and the result is, of course, fantastic!
You have also a new record company. What were the reasons behind this change, and how’s the co-operation been with Metal Heaven?
Mikael: Heavy Fidelity – which actually is my younger brother – had been our record company since 2002, and everything had worked just perfectly. But we came to a point where we felt it was time to take a step up, and that meant finding a bigger label. After sending out a demo with 5 new tracks to several record companies we got some offers, and Metal Heaven just felt right and offered the deal we were looking for. So far it’s been working great, and I feel it was the perfect choice for us.
In your band Nico is from Denmark, while the other members are from Sweden. Are there any difficulties due to this distance between the band members?
Nico: Hmmm… yeah, it’s not just going to the rehearsals every Thursday for me, because it’s a 5-hour drive from Copenhagen to Gothenburg, so I have to rehearse by myself before every gig.
How would you describe the Danish ‘metal scene’ nowadays compared to the Swedish one?
Nico: The Swedes have always been two steps ahead of the Danes when it comes to metal. Well, music in general. It’s like something they put in the water up there. They all seem to have a certain fondness of metal in Sweden. So I have always looked to Sweden when it comes to music.
Some of my favourite new bands are Swedish, like Mustasch, In Flames, Opeth, Soilwork…
Judas Priest’s music seems to be highly respected in Crystal Eyes. What are the bands, or musicians, that influence you the most?
Nico: My influences come first and foremost from the British heavy metal from the 70’s and the 80’s: Sabbath, Maiden, Saxon, Motörhead and Priest (of course). And Kiss! I always find myself going back to those bands and to that era. As I mentioned, I like new bands as well, but the bands mentioned above will always be number one for me.
Could you tell something about your musical roots, for example about other bands or projects, past or present?
Nico: I’ve been playing in a lot of different bands through the years. At the moment I’m also singing in a Danish band called Artillery.
I remember Artillery quite well; still got the good old ‘By Inheritance’ vinyl in my shelf. What are the latest news from this camp? Should we expect more material from the Danish gunmen?
Nico: Yes Artillery are hitting the studio in March. We´re using a local producer called Søren Andersen. Hopefully the album will be out in the summer of 2009. We have a bunch of live shows lined on in 2009 in Europe. So far none of those shows are in England unfortunately, but we´re working on that.
Do Crystal Eyes have any gigs, or maybe a tour, planned for next year?
Mikael: Nothing is yet booked, but we’re trying to get on next year’s summer festivals all around Europe along with some gigs in spring. We’re also trying to get on a tour as a support act for a bigger band, maybe Judas Priest is interested =)
There are quite a lot of ‘classic metal’ bands around nowadays. How does Crystal Eyes deviate from all these other metal bands?
Mikael: I think a lot of the new bands forget about the songs and the melodies which are the most important trade mark for Crystal Eyes. Too many bands seem to focus on being as Heavy as possible.
What is your favourite Priest album, and track?
Mikael: track: Victim Of Changes, album: Defenders Of The Faith
Nico: track: Desert Plains. album: Screaming For Vengeance
Your message to the Steel Mill readers?
Mikael: Long Live Heavy Metal
Nico: Thanx and keep banging!
Crystal Eyes on the web:
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