Interview with guitarist John Allan
Interview conducted by The Lord of Hate
Date online: September 20, 2001
I first heard about Sweden's Steel Attack from a review in a French metal magazine back in 1999. Somehow I knew I had to get their first album - When Mankind Fails - which, due to poor distribution, was very hard to find at the time. It turned out to be one of my favorite power metal album, and their recently released sophomore album, Fall Into Madness, is even better that their debut. While Steel Attack venture in what I consider an overcrowded genre, they have their own distinct sound and are not just a second class clone like so many power metal bands of today. Their music not only kick ass, but the band also keeps in touch with its fans, through e-mail and ICQ, among other things. Guitarist John Allan, cool as always, answered a few questions about the band and especially the many line-up changes, including one that occured just as I sent him this interview! Read on...
Hails! Well, to get this started the standard way, could you tell us about the band's history. and introduce the current lineup?
The lineup has changed a lot if I go back to what happened it will be a book, no just a joke. :)The band that turned out to be Steel Attack was founded in 1995 with Steve on the drums and Dennis and Michel Bohlin on the guitars, Freddy on the bass and a singer named Ronny. They played for some time and Freddy left the band and so did Ronny. They got in contact with Andreas who played the drums in a band next door to the Steel Attack rehearsal studio. Andreas took over the drums and Steve took the bass and the lead vocals as well. In the beginning of 1998 Michel left because he got no time over for a band. I (John) got asked about joining the band in the end of May and we got signed right away with AFM, we recorded the album "Where Mankind Fails" and before that we went on a short tour with Edguy and that was before our release. The new album was close to the release and then Andreas told us that he would leave the band and move to another city to finish his exams. Then Roger got in to the band and we played as a band till just after the Wacken gig 2000 and then Roger told us that he would stay in the band till we got a new drummer. Roger was a single parent and had a hard time to find time for rehearsals and his own practice routine. At that time Andreas got back over a weekend for a visit and asked us if we thought it would be cool to see what he remembered from the songs. We played that evening and asked him if he got plans of moving back and if he was interested in joining us again. He did, and we had to wait 3 months till he got back to our hometown.
Next thing got to be the new singer, Dick Johnson, you see Steve been on us the whole time about that he wouldn't stay in the band if he had to sing more, and we got in contact with Dick who played in my best friends band before, so I gave him a call and he joined the band in the very beginning of this year (2001).
The last change happened just a couple of days back when Steve left the band and told us that he are going 100% into his drumming with Carnal Forge and that they got such great support from there label, with tours etc. Good luck to you and the band Steve. So far we done some audition with bass/background vocalists, but the next thing has to be if some of them are falling into madness as we can do :) . And since this mad spot been taken now I got to add that to here, the new bass player and back vocalist in the band is Patrick Späth.
And Steel Attack are now: John: Lead guitar, Dennis: Guitar, Dick: Lead vocal, Andreas: Drums and Patrick Späth: Bass.
You've had more than your share of lineup changes. One thing I'm wondering is: Andreas left in 1999 (I think) to go back to his studies and was replaced by Roger Raw. In late 2000 Roger left the band and Andreas came back. Is he done with his studies, or does he just manage to make time for both?
That seems pretty scary for being a drummer in Steel Attack. :) Nah just kidding. What happened will follow here: Andreas left the band and was replaced by Roger, then a couple of weeks after the gig at Wacken 2000, Roger told us that he had a very bad feeling about his part in the band, you see he is a single parent with one kid and he told us that he got like no time for his own practice routine and that he also would slow us down with the fact that he had a very hard time to find time for rehearsals with the band too. So he told us that he just would stay in the band till we got a new drummer. Some weeks after Andreas got back for a visit and asked us if we would like to jam on the old songs and see what he still remembered. We went to the rehearsal studio and then after a couple of songs we asked him if he planed to go back to our hometown again. Then we asked him if he would like to be back in the band again and that is what happened :) .
I think each member had musical experience before Steel Attack? Could you give some information about that?
Dennis and Steve been playing in different bands since the beginning of 1992 and Andreas been in bands since the late part of the 80s and Dick been in some bands to during the middle part of the 90s and for my self I been in bands since 1986, none of the bands for any of the members was fulltime in to the music except for some bands that where getting lots of gigs, sadly most of them where full time cover bands. :( For the new bass player he's also been in different bands.
What are your main influences?
No chance to say main, we think there are many bands but the answer to a main influence is the melodic metal. And to say one band would be just to get just one view of the music influences we got.
Steve has decided to not do the lead vocals anymore. Any reason for this? I think a lot of people will agree that he has a very distinctive, if not unique voice. Changing lead vocalist will certainly alter the "trademark" sound of the band I think (?) A lot of people seem to be concerned about this change!
Steve told us that he was not a singer and he been on us for such long time that we need to find a new singer or he would leave the band. The new lead vocalist got a very great voice so we think the change been great.
But as you know Steve is no longer in the band.
Can you compare the new vocalist's voice to any other vocalist's?
To someone else, hmm its very hard but he use to sing in the old school like the old Uriah Heep, Lawton for i.e. and more of the 70s voices. He got an awesome voice. :)
How many albums have you signed for with AFM Records?
Two, and they got option for another as well.
It seems to me like your first album, Where Mankind Fails, was not well promoted at all. I didn't see much publicity about it, in fact I learned of it by a review in the French magazine "Hard Rock". Metal Blade picked it up about a year later and again, not much promotion that I've seen. How did the sales go for that album?
We agree with you on that the promotion for the first album sucked bad, and there are the ones that never heard of us before and they just knew about the first album by visiting the websites about us and then they could see that there are a first one, we got several emails about that, people telling us that they seen the ads of the new album and then they thought that "Fall into Madness" was the first. We can see a huge difference in promotion this time :) . But when it comes to sales for the first one, we don't know, yet. We are still waiting for sales statement etc.
You were part of an AFM mini-tour in Europe last year I think? How did that go? Any interesting stories? I couldn't get a review of those shows since both Hard Rock Magazine and Hard 'n' Heavy representatives missed your performance in France. (grmbl)
We went out on the mini tour and we had a real great time and the audience kicked ass at some of the places with stage diving and so on. There are pictures up at our website from some of them. To tell you the truth we had such fun and we got a great chance to meet the Steel Attackers as well.
You were also on a Scandinavian tour with Edguy? How did that one go?
It turned out good, you see we didn't got an album out and none ever heard of us before, people got in contact with us after the gig and they went to see Edguy but they didn't know about us, so it seems that the surprise worked for us :) . It was a short 5-gig tour with start in Oslo, Gothenburg, Lund, and Motala and then the final in Stockholm. We had real fun at the gigs and in the buss we initiated Edguy to the Swedes "home burned" alcohol, he he he he he. We had some fun in the bus and during the stops as well we finished the Stockholm gig with laser dome. Steel Attack vs. Edguy. :)
Where else have you played? Any good/bad memories?
Most of the gigs been from small metal parties, clubs and
other places to Wacken. Good experience, I think they all are, except for the
ones that got technical problem. Like the Wacken gig, where we got the most
unbelievable stage sound and you could move all over the
stage and hear your self in a great mix with the others, but out through the PA
system towards the audience there where nada of my guitar (no leads, secondary
harmonies, no extra rhythms all) just me standing on the stage playing
"air" guitar. No when I see the video I can laugh at that, but for me
at that time when I first watched the video from Wacken I understand why some of
the people in the audience shake their heads every time I got eye contact with
them and that explained the whole situation with me air guitar playing at
Wacken. We really hope we will get a next chance to play at Wacken with no
Can you describe a typical Steel Attack show?
It all depends of the atmosphere if we got great response then everything can happen no matter of the size of the crowd, we are not a band that working out movements to the music its much more fun to be spontaneous and get wild. We think it's much cooler to work that way and if you follow the band from a gig to another then you will see a totally different show, surprise :) . But we will give 100% no matter what.
What bands would like to tour with? Sort of "the ideal tour"?
Iron Maiden it would be so cool to do something with the band I got into from the beginning of the first album the band that started the metal love inside of me. When it comes to other bands there are so many so the only thing is if the band were real cool and nice we would have a great time for sure.
What are the plans for the next few months?
Rehearse the songs with the new bass player Patrick Späth and we got some Sweden gigs coming up and we really hope most of everything that we will be out live on tour.
Did you get any feedback from fans in the U.S. and Canada? How are sales this side of the Atlantic? Any chance of us every seeing you on tour in North America? Seems like we can only get death metal bands to tour around here, it gets tiring after a while! This continent needs to be enlightened about the good music out there! Please save us.
We got email and ICQ fans that we keep in contact with and some bands that we also keep contact with. When it comes to sales? We don't know, haven't got any statement from the first album. Yet. :( And we hope we will soon.
We got an invitation from Milwaukee Metal Fest and I tell you none in the band would say no to a chance to play there. If we got a chance to do a tour in North America we would take it right away. We really wish we got in contact with cool places that accept metal bands like us we could stay for a tour at the same time as the metal fest are.
You had a demo titled "Mighty Sword of
Steel". Were the songs on it used in "Where Mankind Fails" or are
they only on the demo? (and if that's the case, is that demo available?)
The songs that where used from that demo was, Dragons Skull, Village of Agabha, Heading for the Lair and the bonus track Holly Sea of Gold, I don't think the demo is available, you see the songs on that demo was rerecorded when we did the "Where Mankind Fails" album except the bonus track Holly Sea of Gold that was the demo sound. On the demo there where actually no solos and I don't know if the demo is still available, but I think there are ways to get hold of it.
In your new album, you don't use choirs as much as you did on "Where Mankind Fails". Was this intentional or did it just come out this way?
I guess that was more of a thing that happen in the studio you see when you got a chance to hear the songs over and over and with a great studio sound then you can see if that extra choir are needed or not.
Your lyrics are pretty much fantasy-oriented but I couldn't help to notice that some seem to have a hidden "real life meaning".. Among other songs I'm thinking about "Fall Into Madness", "The Beast" and "Judgment Day". Am I right, or should I stop drinking beer when reading your lyrics? :)
It's your own twisted mind. :) No you are right and I am glad you got a very open mind with free flow in the fantasy to your own viewing/hearing of the songs and that is so cool. Cause we never intended the songs to be real life situations. But you can as you did, see exactly what we did afterwards, that you could see real life meaning with the words. Are all in fantasy just fantasy or cant some of it be reality, I think the difference between them can be very small if there is no extreme parts of them.
Your lyrics are overall pretty positive. Do you plan on keeping things that way in the future, or would you like to try a "darker" approach sometime? Or maybe there are already enough bands dealing with dark stuff already?
I think we are a very positive band when it comes to the personality with the members and that will also reflect the story in the songs. But if there will be darker or so that's decided when the lyrics will be written.
Well, since we're on the lyrical topic, maybe you can give us a brief description of each song on your album, like what they're meant to represent? Yeah, I know you hate me for asking this one. hehehe
"Fall into Madness" the frustrated feeling a warrior can get. "The Beast" Your own mind or another force that play with your mind? It's your choice. "Guardians" The guardians of hope the ones you are looking for. "Holy Swordsmen" the ones that do the fight for us and make us protected from the unreal. "Judgment Day" the end of it all, and the beginning of the new . "Wings of Faith" the way you travel to the paradise, is by asking about the wings of faith. "Clearing the Mind" Try to forget about the war and the past and with that show that there is always a negative side of the fight. "Fireballs" look into your situation now and deal with it now before its to late you are the one that control you life and do something about your anger and lies. "Defender of the Crown" The knights song when they are in a battle and need to gain power. :)
Your first album was recorded in a little less than a month I think. How did the recording go for the second album?
We spent a total of 6 weeks with recording, mix, final mix and mastering this time and we did as we always done, start the recording with the drums, added the rhythm guitars after and then we switched between melodies and vocals then lead guitar and vocals it all depends on the inspiration you know J. We recorded the bass and the additional choirs last.
We recorded the new album in the same studio as we did on the first album at Studio Underground http://welcome.to/studiounderground and the final mastering at Cutting Room http://www.cutting-room.se/ check it out.
Have you already started on new material for the next album? How does the band go about the songwriting process? Do you go "ok, let's start writing the new stuff" or is it more hmmm.. "natural", for example keep track of your ideas as they come and then use them for the songs?
Yes we got songs for a new album already. The songwriting process is normally like this, someone in the band got an idea and then we add some to it and rehearse it for some times then someone can just say I got an idea for this and that part and then the songs will be written in a short period of time. We really think this is the best way to work out songs for us; it gives you more of a freedom to work out songs this way for us.
And yes we keep track on the ideas now, I say now because normally we will get lots of ideas but not enough B Ram (Brain Ram) to store it for a longer period :) no it's the best way to just hook the minidisk porta up with a mike or two. Then it gives you a library of elements that can fit another song than the first one etc.
Where do you find your inspiration for the lyrics? Are you guys into fantasy books and stuff like that? If yes, have you read any good books lately (or maybe some classics to recommend?)
None of us are real book freaks anymore I think I spoiled myself with the VCR. :)The inspiration comes from the way you think of past times and the background to it comes from that everybody in the band add their view to the song. Any good fantasy will be cool to recommend, I think that is like music it is so individually that it is close to impossible to recommend any one. I cant wait till the movie "Lord of the Rings" will get out so I can get it on DVD http://www.lordoftherings.net
Who's your favorite porn star? Nah just kidding. (it's the beer) ;) What do you think about "power metal haters"? I mean people who'll take any chance given to them to bash the whole genre as cheesy, gay, pretentious or whatever?
To tell you the truth there are lots of good-looking babes that I can tell you as favorite porn queens. Not kidding and I am sober :) . Power metal haters I don't think anything about them at all cause they got their opinion about what they like and there will always be others that got another view to it.
What power metal bands (or other metal genres for that matter) do you like to listen to? Any recent acquisitions that impressed you?
As long it is melodic and got very strong impression on me I listen to it all but my favorite band now and the band I finally got a chance to see live here in Sweden at Sweden Rock www.swedenrock.com was Symphony X and they seem to have fun as hell performing live too.
That's pretty much all I have, thanks for your time! Would you like to add something else?
Thank you so much for the interview. To all of you that been supporting us since the first release "Where Mankind Fails" we can only say thank you very very much and that goes to the Steel Attackers around that been in contact with us over ICQ: 37375224 or dropping us email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We really hope we can get a chance to meet you all at a gig and have a great time together.
|Other information about Steel Attack on this site|
|Review: Fall Into Madness|
|Review: Where Mankind Fails|
|Review: Carpe DiEnd|
|Review: Predator of the Empire|
|Review: Carpe DiEnd|
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