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Starblind Interview (part 2)

A lot has been happening with Starblind since the interview Horror Metal Sounds had with them last year. For starters, they have not slowed down in performing show after show in the club and festival scene but have also released a new record on Pure Steel Records entitled Dying Son.

Over this past year I have had the opportunity to chat with these fine musicians during their transition from the last label to Pure Steel. They still like their beer but what stood out more was the love of family. We all connected on that aspect. Other than our love of family and fine beer, it has been a privilege to get to know the band on more personal levels. To tell you the truth, I have been treated like a brother from each member of this band. I feel we are kindred spirits and like all metal heads, the music binds us together. Now we have a batch of new questions and we will all get to know Starblind a little better and maybe a little more deeper than the last time.

Again I am humbled and honoured to have a relationship with these guys. It really just happened and there was no stalking involved. Honest! So lets get in the mind of Starblind.

HMS: For the readers who haven’t read the first interview, please give us your name and title.

Mike: Vocalist of the skies, breaker of soundwaves. We haven’t been able to find one single PA-system that can withstand Mikes strong and high pitched voice. He always breaks the elements in our rehearsel space’s PA... it’s very costly to buy a new system every week.

Johan “JJ” Jonasson: Guitar demon of Fire. JJ plays so fast that he can’t use regular steel strings as they melt by his fast and furious shredding. We actually have to import extra heavy gauge titanium strings from the far away plains of Mongolia for him. Those are the only type of strings that can withstand the infernal heat produced by JJ’s fierce playing.

Björn Rosenblad: Guitar demon of Ice. Björn actually plays so fast that he freezes time which can be quite handy sometimes when we need the extra hour or so for rehearsal before a gig.

Daniel: Bass guitar player from the deep abyss. The ground shakes every time Daniel plays a power chord accompanying the guitar demons of Starblind. It’s a constant battle to stand up straight when Daniels fingers hit his bass guitar strings as the low frequencies from hell projects from his bass rig straight into the listener’s heart!

Zak: He plays the drums.

HMS: Getting right to the point, tell us about your new label. How did it come together?

Mike: Well Tim, basically we wanted to test a new studio and producer so we went up to Cedrick Forsbergs Studio 2-Takt to do a test recording on some new songs. The studio is located in a city called Sandviken and the studio itself is within an old haunted mansion and lies just on the outskirts of an ancient and evil forest. It was the most eerie experience, but after passing the initial ritual we all came out of this alive and with 4 songs recorded as a pre-production for the then yet untitled album. We thought it sounded really well so it was sent out to some record labels and it resulted in many offers for different deals. We deemed Pure Steel Records (GmbH in Germany) had the best offering so it was not a very hard decision for us to make even though we all love Stormspell Records and all the things that they have done for us, but we felt that this was the best move for us to make.

HMS: Did writing for the new label give you more creative freedom during the recording process?

Mike: There is really no difference between the two labels in this sense as we are allowed full creativity when it comes to the music making both on the previous record as well as the new one.

HMS: For each of you, what is the song that stands out the most on the new record and what it means to you?

Mike: I would say that the song named as ”The Lighthouse” is probably my current favorite song. I think we were able to capture a sort of gloomy sense of horror, doom, and despair in all aspects of this song but it still has great melodies and a catchy chorus.

Björn: For me it is ”The Land of Seven Rivers beyond the Sea” because of the joy and challenge to play it. It is a great song that stretches from soft, clean and a cozy start to evolve into an intense and captivating verse and refrain.

Daniel: My personal favorite has been “Room 101” for a long time. Everything feels so welded together when we play it in our rehearsel space and it’s really good for being able to squeeze that last bit of energy out when you’re already exhausted from a set. I think our fans will love this song!

JJ: My current favorite is “Sacrifice”. There are so many different moods and time changes throughout the whole song. And the guitar melody just kills.

Zak: I don’t think I could pinpoint a song that “stands out” on this album as I feel they are all connected in some way. But I believe “Firestone” is a good example of representing our sound. It has the whole dynamic spectre with a slow intro and outro, a fast verse and pre-chorus, a catchy chorus, ripping solo and a singalong bridge. Rounded up with a thrilling story sung by Mike it has all the ingredients of a good Starblind song.

HMS: Did you have Yannick Bouchard do the cover again?

Mike: No, this time around we chose to work with the very talented German artist named Markus Vesper. It was a great experience because we were really involved as a band in the process from start to finish with some great help from our manager Guy D’haeseleer who has a great mind for these things, so it all worked just the way we wanted it.

HMS: A question for Zacke: A while back we were talking about some songs you wrote with J.J. and Bjorn. What are the titles and what effect did that process have on you as a drummer/guitar player?

Zak: Sadly, those songs actually never came to fruition. It just didn’t feel right at the time. And we never force any material at our rehearsel space. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work and there’s no hard feeling to whoever wrote it. But at the same time, we never discard any unused material. We only leave it to rest and after some time, we take another look at it and see if it feels better. It could the next day or the next year. I’m usually very involved in arranging the songs in Starblind. I want everything to blend in nicely and that the listener can feel or hear a red thread in our material. I can be extremely picky sometimes and I give my humble respects to other guys in the band for putting up with me!

HMS: Mike, you told me last year of a song that was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe. What poem or short story inspired “The Lighthouse”?

Mike: Well, I have written several Poe inspired songs, and a few didn’t make this album, but the ones that did are the songs “The Man of the Crowd” and “The Lighthouse”.

HMS: For J.J. and Bjorn, the solos are nothing like the first record, other than they’re fast and way cool. Did you guys write them out or were they “on the fly”?

Björn: I usually spend a lot of time before we go in to the studio to have all my solos as near completion as I can. I want very strong melodies and a clear structure around my solos.

JJ: For me, it’s usually that I have the beginning and the end finished of each solo. I allow myself some creative freedom in the middle so it’s not 100% the same each time I play it. I just think it’s more fun that way and I believe that I and Björn’s solos compliments each other very well.

HMS: I was blown away by how “Dying Son” opened up with those Steve Harris style power chords. The whole record seemed to have an element of fun even though the lyrics were deep and gothic. Was this more fun than work to record?

Zak: Recording this album sure was a lot of fun. But in order to make it more fun than work we really prepared for this studio session. All the songs had been scrutinized to the very last riff and we all knew what to do when Ced would press the record button. Daniel and I came to Ced’s studio the day before everyone else to set up the drums which took a good while. The others came in the afternoon the next day and by then the drums where mixed up and ready to go so the others only had to plug in their instruments and then we could start recording. Since all the instruments where recorded live we didn’t have any boring down time waiting for “the other” to finish his recording so you could start yours. Ced is a morning person so we got up kind of early in the morning (about 8 o’clock), to my personal despair, and started recording after breakfast. We recorded about three songs a day and always had a big dinner at the end each day. By trying to do things as effectively as possible; everything was done rather quickly and there wasn’t any time to bicker about who ate the last snickers or whatever.

HMS: For each of you, what does the record Dying Son mean to you?

Mike: This record means a lot to me as an artist in the sense of where we are today and how far we have come in just over two years’ time. I am really proud of this record and I truly believe it solidifies our sound as a band where the debut was maybe a bit more naïve and going all different directions at once and I don’t mean that as a bad thing but today we are more welded together as a band and we know in what direction to move and I am pretty sure that we have now found our sound so to say.

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“I am really proud of this record and I truly believe it solidifies our sound...”

Björn: It is a fantastic feeling to finally hold the physical album in my hands, knowing the effort, time and fun time we had put in making it. It has been a great journey that made us more united as one unit and made us more confident on our sound. And the best part is that this doesn’t stop here but gives us more energy to keep on going and evolving.

JJ: I feel that we have grown as a unit and you can really hear that on this album. And it means a lot to finally make an album that sounds exactly like something I would like to find at the local record store.

Daniel: I’m very proud of this record and due to how it has the right vibe due to it being recorded live. The hard work of five guys made this happen! I’m also very proud that the one song I wrote, "Firestone", was a good fit for this album.

Zak: For me, “Dying Son” is the result of one year’s hard work and gives everyone a perfect way of knowing what we are about as a band. The production sound, the music, the lyrics, the artwork, it’s exactly how we want it to be. This is Starblind now and this will be Starblind in the future. If you like this album, you will like Starblind in ten years from now. We are not going to change anything from our heavy metal formula.

HMS: Tell us about “Firestone”. This one is most intense musically and lyrically especially vocally (and I personally think recording live added to the intensity of the whole album).

Zak: Daniel did a fantastic job writing “Firestone” and it’s one of those songs that really wouldn’t have worked recording in a conventional way with a metronome. The song fluctuates a lot in tempo and intensity and it’s really important have the song feel dynamic. In a song like this everything relies on the band as a unit. It’s a song for the Starblind crowd to singalong with and maybe feels a part of something, a family of some sort. And in order to be able to give that feeling on a CD/LP... then what better way to record it other than live and us having a good time while doing it?

Mike: With regards to the lyrics I wrote them just listening to a cell phone rehearsal recording and sometimes when I do this I just sing in my mind and some things always sound easier and very possible to do in the mind than when you actually sing it. This is usually the way I do it and most times I have to adjust the lyrics and remove a lot of the words due to me not being a rap artist, but this time around I just went for it as I believed the lyrics were perfect. So I made sure I fitted everything in there, haha. This is by far the song that is the hardest to sing as there is never any room to breathe.

HMS: Did you guys get to play many new songs to test out the crowd? How did they respond?

Zak: We did try out a few songs live before we started the recording. I think it was “Sacrifice” and “A Dying Son” and we got a positive reaction from the crowd, so we knew we were on the right track. It will be a lot of fun playing our new material live because you never know how the crowd will react to a certain song. We might believe that “this” song will be a live favourite of “Dying Son” but it might turn out to be that “that” song and vice versa.

HMS: Zacke, the drums sound killer! Was it easier recording the drums live instead of tracking?

Zak: Thanks! Our producer Cederick Forsberg really did wonders to my 9-piece Pearl World Series kit. After recording this last album with Starblind I really feel that I won’t ever go back to record with a metronome. I just don’t really see the point? When you record using a metronome in the background you risk becoming more focused on that instead of what, say the bass guitarist is doing. The music doesn’t breathe the same way. When you skip the metronome and just play all the instruments at once, it’s much easier to catch that gritty rock ’n roll essence that sadly so many albums nowadays lack. So what if the second chorus is a little bit faster than the first one? Who cares really?

HMS: Lately I have been listening to groups like Ever Stays Red and Tom Petty in the car. What do you have in your CD players right now?

Mike: I am currently spinning the CD “Sacred Fire” by the amazing Swedish band “The Storyteller”.

Björn: The album ”Insanity & Genius” from Gamma Ray.

JJ: I currently listen to a lot of 70’s heavy metal. Bands like UFO and old Scorpions.

Zak: It’s either “Moving Pictures” or “Signals” by’s been a lot of that stuff lately!

Daniel: Now I’m pretty much in love with Aria (Russian band), the album “Christening by Fire” has been on repeat for a good while now. Besides Aria I also play Iced Earth’s album “Burnt Offerings” very much.

HMS: How do you guys keep from strangling each other when you’re locked in the studio or driving from city to city? It can get pretty claustrophobic at times.

Zak: Well, it’s really a matter of respecting one another and being able to not take this to heavy when things go bad. We are all in this together and if people start to become immature douche bags - things can escalate very quickly. And we know, by experience (haha), that every once and a while you need some space from the band. Whether it’s on tour or in the studio. You go for a walk, have a beer,and go watch a movie. Doesn’t really matter what it is. We like each other’s company but you really have to have some time alone sometime to not go bat shit crazy only because the pizza parlour messed up your order when it’s dinner time.

HMS: Back in the early 90’s I was writing with a friend of mine in California. We spent the better part of two months locked in a refurbished garage. It was our studio and we had stocked it with two cartons of cigarettes, a full bar, Gibson Les Paul, B.C. Rich Warlock, Fender and custom amps a thousand feet of tape and hundreds of riffs. We got 12+ songs written and recorded but after we got done mastering we didn’t talk or see each other for a month! The only thing that kept us from killing each other was a couple of nights a week we would head out to the pub and shoot pool.

Zak: Cool story Tim! Like you said, it’s impossible to stay locked up in a studio forever or go from town to town with no break unless you have something to let some steam out. You had shooting pool, that’s great! When I feel like my head is about to explode on tour I usually go to my bunk in the tour bus, put on some headphones and play some Eddie Izzard clips on Youtube and laugh myself silly. I love that guy and it really eases the pressure off me and I become (at least sort of!) normal when I come back after it.

HMS: With the new label and better distribution, is there a chance that Starblind will come to the United States?

Zak: At this stage, we can’t make any promises. Bringing our heavy metal show to the US would be a dream come true but it looks like it will be mostly European gigs this time around. But who knows what will happen in the future?

HMS: I’ll tell you what, I am going keep that in my high hopes and when it comes around, you’re going to have one serious fan boy at every show!

Zak: If that’s the case we will drag you up on stage and have you singalong the chorus on “The Lighthouse” at every gig!

HMS: Speaking of music, my heart broke that night I heard of what went down in Paris. Not only was it devastating to those that went to see a rock show, but also to the bystanders in other areas and we could only hear about it in disbelief. All of us at Horror Metal Sounds were distraught and speechless. I only say this because I want to let you all know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers as you go from town to town making the masses insane with the Starblind brand of heavy metal. With that said, I send my humble thanks once again to you all for taking time out for us here at HMS.

Zak: Thanks for those words Tim. It’s really means a lot to all of us in Starblind. What happened down in Paris has had us all in shock and our thoughts go out to the victims and their friends and families of this tragic event.

HMS: We wish only the best for you, your families, your fans and your future. Many thanks, my brothers.

Starblind: Thanks again Tim and thank you for this excellent interview and keep up the good work at Horror Metal Sounds!

Tim Duran, HMS

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