We were going too far ahead from the original Rage concept and we had to reboot
It seems like Rage are working really hard and only after one year since the release of "The Devil Strikes Again" they are back with a brand new album. What is the music vision behind "Seasons Of The Black"? Why they are so creative? How the new line-up is going along? When they are coming back to Greece? Peavy has all the answers, so read below what he had to say about all that plus more.
We have a new album after only one year. What’s going on? You’re on a creative mood or what?
Yeah we are on a creativity trip [laughs]. The mood in the band is really great. It’s very inspiring you know. We write songs constantly and we have our own studio, so that makes it very easy to record stuff right away. There’s a lot of stuff, a lot of new ideas coming all the time.
Give us some details about it. You mention that you record it in your own studio. Did you hire a producer or you produced it yourselves?
We did the production as a band. Everybody together and for the mixing we worked again with Dan Swano like we did in the previous album. He lives in Sweden and he is a friend of mine.
In which terms do you write the songs? Do you work individually on ideas or sometimes you work all together?
About the composition, it mostly it starts with me writing a skeleton of the songs which includes the chord progression, the melodies and stuff, some basic riffing. Then I team up with Marcos, who has already his ideas, so the composition has to do with me and him. Lucky only jumps in later after we have done the pre-production where he completes the drums arrangement and stuff.
You already said that the mood is good in the band, so now after two years what you can say that Lucky and Marcos brought to the band?
A lot! [laughs] First of all we are good friends. We know each other very much, longer that we work together. Marcos is the ultimate sidekick for me in terms of songwriting. We see ourselves as Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards [laughs].Lucky, also is one of my best friends and he brings in a lot as a drummer but also as a manager of the band. He’s doing the arrangements, most of the booking stuff, so he’s involved with all the machinery that keeps the band running.
"Working with really close friends is better on so many levels"
So, what you said to me the last time about working with friends again is the thing that makes the difference here?
Yes of course. It’s totally different than working with people that are only there for work, as colleagues. Something like that could be functional sometimes, but working with really close friends is better on so many levels.
Why you choose "Seasons Of The Black" as a title? What are the lyrics talking about?
I’m used to write about dark topics and most of the album deals with that, like the extinction of mankind and stuff. So, we thought that this would be a cool album title to use.
Do you really believe there is such thing like Blackened Karma?
I believe that whatever we do leaves a mark in the universe, like an energy mark and that sooner or later it comes back in our lives, you know...
There is a saying that goes like “you don’t judge a book by its cover”, but come on Peavy... the cover of the album it’s kind of... weird.
It’s the skull of Soundchaser, the creature that’s been on the Rage’s covers since 1988...
Yeah, I know, but it kinda evolved into something very ugly...
It’s a thing that I made. Actually, it’s really casted from one of the skulls of my collection. That’s an old skull from Peru, a Peruvian skull which is kinda elongated and it’s from the eleventh century or so. I made a cast from this skull and I remodeled the jaws, like the soundchaser’s jaws, you know. So this is not a Photoshop thing, it’s real. I have it here right now... [laughs]
Musically I think that you continue the path you choose in "The Devil Strikes Again", with the more straight and to the point songwriting, the trademark hooking vocal melodies but I think in a more mellow way than your previous album. Are there any real differences between these two albums?
So you think that it’s more happy? [laughs] Maybe this is your impression. I don’t see a lot of difference from what we did in “The Devil Strikes Again” album. I think it has the same vibe...
The way that the album closes with the power ballad "Farewell" someone could claim that perhaps this is something like a teaser for the albums to come. It’s slow, it has keys and reminds the more epic sound of Rage. Is anything of that or it’s just a song you wrote and services no other purpose?
This is the ending of this quartrology, about the tragedy of men. It’s not a perspective about the future album or so. This song reminds you a little bit of stuff we did back on the "XIII" album, I agree that it has that kind of vibe, but this not means that we are going to follow that approach in the new album. I just thought that it’s a suitable ending for this album.
"At this point, when I’m writing songs, I’m doing it for myself. It’s like an inner communication"
When you were writing the songs did you have in mind a specific path in terms of how the music should sound or it’s a spontaneous product of ideas that just came up and you worked with?
Yes, it was a very spontaneously thing. Most of the time, I just came up with a basic idea and we worked the song right away. There was not, in the beginning, a big plan or anything. We came up with five new songs already before “The Devil Strikes Again” album was released. So, we saw that the direction was going to this really dark and heavy kind of thrashy sound and in the end we had some more creative ideas like doing this epic quartrology thing, putting together four songs and create this epic scenery. This was the only thing that was actually planned. All the other stuff came pretty much spontaneously. For example the song “All We Know Is Not” we did it from scratch, from basically nothing. It was just me having a session situation with Marcos and it took us... let’s say one and a half hour to came up with the ideas to the final pre-production version of that song. It was a very fast and a very spontaneous process.
How difficult is it after so many albums to keep the songwriting on a level that it’s still interesting for the fans? Which is the fountain of your inspiration?
I have to tell you that when I’m writing songs, at this point, I’m doing it for myself. For me it’s like an inner communication. So, first of all I have to like what I’m doing, and then I think whether the audience would like it, as a release under the name of Rage. The stuff I’m writing are mostly a way to express myself musically and it always fits to Rage, you know [laughs]
"We were going too far ahead from the original Rage concept and from the trademark sound we had and wanted"
I was talking the other day with Jon Shaffer of Iced Earth and we were discussing about the common mistake that musicians do all the time and there is no other than the fact that because they want to push things and evolve they somehow lose their path and they have the need of a reboot. Going back and rethink in a simpler way the music. Did you ever felt that kind of feeling about some of your albums?
Yes, definitely! Actually this is the reason I changed the line-up two years ago. We are following this reboot path currently with the band. I also had the impression that we were going too far ahead from the original Rage concept and from the trademark sound we had and wanted. I agree 100% with Jon, sometimes you really need to see your reflection on the mirror and realize that you are doing something wrong and fixed it.
And which in your opinion is Rage’s trademark sound? You had your more heavy/power period and then you had the more epic/symphonic with the orchestra and all. What defines the Rage’s sound?
What we are doing right now, with the last couple of albums. I think this kind of fast, heavy, aggressive, thrashy thing but always with good melodies is the trademark sound of Rage. What we did in the classic albums in the '90s like "Black In Mind" and "End Of All Days". This orchestration face was just an extra addition on top of the originally sound, you know. It wasn’t meant to be a general change of the sound of the band, it was always some kind of a single event thing.
Which is the pinnacle album of Rage’s catalogue? Is it "The Missing Link", is it "Black In Mind" is it "XIII"or "End Of all Days"? If someone come in ten years and asks you to tell him your best work what would you answer to him?
Ohhhh... That’s a fucking difficult question [laughs] How many albums we have? 23, 24? So, it’s really hard to say which one is the best, you know. I don’t know if I can wind it down to one album or so. If I would have to do that, I would probably say "Black In Mind".
I remembered the other day that you have covered songs from bands like The Police, The Mission and The Troggs so I couldn’t help but ask you what those bands mean to you. Is just music you like or there is something deeper?
Mostly they are songs from bands that influenced me, at some part of my life. For example The Police; I used to listen a lot of them when I was young. All the songs that we covered had always a meaning for me personally...
Do you think that the classic metal fan can understand why you did a cover of The Police? I’m quite sure that most of them are not digging their music, you know... perhaps never even heard a single song on purpose...
[Laughs]Yeah, probably a lot of fans don’t really understand it. I mean that’s not the point... We had to do a version that sounds like Rage and if you hear it as a fan of the band you think that this is an original song of the band that you hadn’t listened so far. To go and search the original because of the cover? That’s a whole different thing but you don’t have to know the original to understand that it’s a good song.
So I’m guessing that your perspective is to adapt the songs to Rage’s style, to pay some kind of tribute to them, but keep doing your thing.
Last question. Are there any tour plans yet? Are you going to visit Greece this time because in the last tour you didn’t...
We’ve been in Greece last time. When was it... December of 2015?
I mean for "The Devil Strikes Again" tour...
Really? There was no Greek show?
Are you sure? [laughs]
[Laughs] Yes I’m pretty sure Peavy...
I’m not sure I think there was something, but anyway we just working at the moment on the next world tour, booking shows and that and we actually starting from Greece in December of this year. There’s gonna be two or three shows there I think. We soon going to release the European leg schedule. So we’re coming in the middle of December and we’re going to see all our Greek fans again.