DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH
Interview By Kimmo Tattari / November 2008
Mikael Dahl, the vocalist of Defenders Of The Faith answered a few questions, as we here in Steel Mill introduce another great Judas Priest tribute band.
First off the obvious question, why did you start a Priest tribute band, and what does the music of Judas Priest mean to you?
The first Judas Priest record I bought was Defenders Of The Faith in 1984 and it just blew me away. The songs, the screaming guitars and Rob’s voice just changed my world and Priest have been my favourite band since then. In 1990 I met Niclas Karlsson who listened to the same music as me, and had the same favourite band. In 1992 we started Crystal Eyes together, to write and play music as it was made in the eighties with bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Accept, Manowar etc. We were kind of possessed by Priest, and just wanted to play more and more of their songs, so we had to start a new band completely dedicated to the Metal Gods. Defenders Of The Faith was born in 1993. The band has always been a side project, and the most important thing is that it’s always only included our good old friends. Judas Priest has always meant a lot to me and I’m a big collector of Priest bootlegs. I often find myself listening to old bad sounding live bootlegs for hours, totally in trance.
Screaming like the Metal God does ain’t the easiest thing to do, do you practice those screams or do any vocal training?
As soon as I began singing in the late eighties, I realized that I could do the high screams without any problems. Well, of course it sounded terrible back then, but I’ve always loved high pitch vocals so I just kept on screaming. I’m a guitarist from the beginning, and when we started Defenders Of The Faith I could put away the guitar and concentrate on the vocals, and that was just wonderful. I’ve always been practicing on my vocals very hard, but nowadays I never sing between rehearsals or gigs.
From left to right: Stefan Fors – bass, Kim Koivu – guitar, Mikael Dahl – vocals, Niclas Karlsson – guitar, Martin Tilander – drums
What is the most memorable gig that you’ve played and what made it great?
This year’s Sweden Rock Festival of course! I remember a couple of years ago when our drummer asked if there’s any chance for Defenders to play the festival since I’ve done it twice with my main band Crystal Eyes. I just laughed and asked who wants to see a cover band on the biggest festival in Sweden? So it was a very strange feeling when we got to play at Sweden ock the day before Judas Priest headlined the festival. The gig went just great, and I guess this will remain our biggest gig ever.
So, you also play guitar in Crystal Eyes. I understood you have quite a long history with this band?
Since we started Crystal Eyes in 1992, it’s been the main thing in my life. I’m the only founding member left, and I guess you can say that it’s kind of my band. So far we’ve released 5 records and I’ve written all of the songs. I was the singer from the beginning until 2004, when I decided to just concentrate on writing songs and playing the guitar. I sang the first 3 records and after that did one song on the following ones. We’ve just finished mixing our 6th record which will be released in January 2009. The music of Crystal Eyes is not too far from Judas Priest, so I guess we could interest anyone who loves the good old Metal from the eighties.
How is it to play the guitar instead of doing the ‘Metal God screams’ in front of a live audience?
I’ve been doing both at the same time for 15 years, but now when I just play the guitar in one band and sing in another, it’s just perfect. I love screaming, so I think “being” Metal God comes first. But then, of course, it’s just great to perform my own songs, and see people just go crazy about it.
Are there any ‘Spinal Tap’ style DOTF roadstories to tell?
Back in the early days the beers were always included in the playing, and there are tons of stories related to this. One of the worst must be about me falling twice off the stage during a gig… I really don’t remember it, but I’ve heard the tape recording of the gig, and I can’t understand a word I’m singing, so anything could have happened. Nowadays I never drink before a gig.
How many Priest songs do you have in your setlist?
I think we have something like 14-15 songs right now, but the list is growing…
Which one took most work to get done, and which is the hardest one to play live?
The Sentinel, Stained Class & Painkiller are really hard to nail. We’ve never played Painkiller live, and I guess we’ll leave it in the rehearsal-room =)
How much practice does it take to make a succesful tribute act?
We’ve never been too serious about making everything perfect. The meaning of the band, in the first place, was just to play Judas Priest songs and have fun. In the beginning we didn’t even bother to find gigs, but were just satisfied meeting once a week to drink some beer and play Metal. The hard practising has always been in our main bands, and that means Crystal Eyes for me. We’ve been playing those songs for 15 years now, so you should at least be able to hear what song we’re playing =).
Have you recorded any Priest material in studio?
Yes, we recorded 3 songs in January 2007, only to get into the Battle Of The Bands competition. The songs can be found at our official myspace site
Do you know if there are any other Priest tributes in Sweden?
I saw a band called Just As Priest for hmmm…maybe 15 years ago in Gothenburg. Don’t know if they’re still alive, but I think there were 2 more Priest tributes in this years Battle Of The Bands competition, but I can’t recall their names.
If you could include one more song on Judas Priest’s current setlist, what would it be?
I think the current setlist is just fantastic, and it’s great that they include so many old songs that have never, or rarely, been played. I wish more bands had the guts to do this. To answer your question, I can not just choose one song, so here are a few suggestions: Dreamer Deceiver, Blood Red Skies, One Shot At Glory, Saints In Hell, Hard As Iron. And of course I want the best song ever written back in the setlist: Victim Of Changes
…and now the last words to the Steel Mill readers…
I can’t imagine life without the music of Judas Priest, and I’ll continue to sing the words of the Metal God until I die. And since the word is mine, I take the chance to promote my own band Crystal Eyes, where I’m the songwriter, guitarist and former singer, so you might find some influences from the best band in the world there. We have a new record coming out in a couple of months, but meanwhile you can listen to 5 full songs from our latest release at http://www.myspace.com/crystaleyesfromsweden, and our records can be bought at http://www.crystaleyes.net/