Interview with guitarist Hannes Horma
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 5, 2023
Additional questions by Hessu Silpola
Transcription and interview pics of Hannes by Terhi Lahtinen
Live pictures by Hessu Silpola
Finland's power metal stalwarts Silver Bullet have had a lot going on the past few years and one of the most remarkable is their new vocalist Bruno Provenschi, who joined the band in 2021 after vocalist Nils Nordling became too busy in his life to continue in the band. The band also released their third album, Shadowfall, on January 22, 2023, via Reaper Entertainment, which has received positive reactions in the media around the world. The band has widened its sound spectrum from the last album, Mooncult (2019), while keeping their foundation untouched. It's been said that a band's third album is always the hardest to make, but that rule doesn't really apply to this bunch as Shadowfall takes the prize as the band's most mature and powerful work to date.
The Metal Crypt caught up with the band's main songwriter, guitarist Hannes Horma in Helsinki on January 14, 2023, when the band arrived in the capital of Finland to test some of their new songs in the live setting prior to going on a European tour with Swedish symphonic power metallers Twilight Force and American symphonic metallers Seven Spires. Hannes shared his thoughts on many matters regarding the new album, how they found Bruno to fill Nils' boots, the upcoming European tour, and so on...
WINDS OF CHANGES
Congratulations on your new album, Shadowfall. It's a damn great album, and once again Silver Bullet has taken a couple of important steps forward as far as refining your sound is concerned. The songs are more versatile on this new album, however, let's go back in time a bit first. Did the departure of former singer Nils Nordling in 2020 come as a shock?
Hannes: It was a bit of a shock, of course, because the plan was to go on tour and do all sorts of things together. The tour was postponed due to the coronavirus, so there was a bit of a dead spot, so to speak. Nils and the rest of the band were wondering what the name of the game would be. It became a mutual understanding that his dedication was not there or his enthusiasm for the band wasn't at the level we wanted. That was the reason he left. For him, little by little, everything like band rehearsals started to be not so much fun anymore. You can't really do anything about that.
Did it take a long time to find a new vocalist?
Hannes: It wasn't last terribly long, but the situation was a shock, like you said. We had done two albums with Nils, and he is a very good singer. We really enjoyed those times. Then, in a way, we had to start looking for a completely new thing, so it was a difficult situation all around. We had to decide whether to go in a different direction or stay the same and what kind of singer we wanted because we can never copy anyone. We looked for singers through Muusikoiden.net and I asked some singers I knew. Bruno found our search on Muusikoiden.net and contacted me. The process was I sent three of our songs to potential singers to record. We had around five singers who recorded our songs. Things went so well with Bruno that we asked him to join us for a rehearsal. We rehearsed a couple of times and then we made the decision. That was it.
Did any well-known singers pop up as possible candidates?
Hannes: No, not really. The singers from famous bands were ones I knew, and I asked them if they were interested. They said yes, but they also have their other bands. I decided right away that we wanted a singer who could be fully committed to Silver Bullet, one who knows how to write lyrics and is all in, not a singer only for live shows, so I sort of ruled them out in that respect. We discussed using a singer on a temporary basis or someone just for vocals. When we got the chance to have someone that could contribute more, we took the chance. Of course, at that point we didn't have much merit, so we could not demand that anyone leave their band nor did we want to ask a friend to leave his band and join Silver Bullet. That's not a very good way to do it!
SOMETHING GOOD CAME OUT OF THE BAD
Tours were cancelled due to the pandemic, but in a way something good came out of it as bands could focus on writing new music. Did you have a similar situation?
Hannes: In a way, yeah, but for me it was quite a lot worse because I also work in the music industry as a sound engineer and so on. I lost all my work and had nothing. It all stopped because of this one thing. For a while I wondered what the heck I was going to do and then I started writing more and more songs, and I drifted more in that direction. That's how many new songs were born. Some of the songs were already complete at that time, but I wrote quite a few new songs as well. We have bonus tracks we have not released yet, and there will be one extra single. A lot of material has been made during the pandemic.
I read that there will be four bonus tracks on the Japanese edition. What are those?
Hannes: Three are completely new, unreleased songs and one is a cover of "Night Crawler" by Judas Priest.
That Priest cover is a great choice, being the huge Priest fan that I am. Is the Japanese edition available yet?
Hannes: No, it's not released yet. We do not have it.
Can you compare the making of Mooncult to the making of Shadowfall?
Hannes: When Mooncult was finished, I had already started thinking that the next album wouldn't be a theme album because it is such a heavy process. It's a complicated process to make a theme album which tells a story. You are tied to certain things, and you can't make a certain kind of song if it doesn't fit the story. It was a very conscious decision not to make a theme album this time around, but to just write songs and build the album based on that. I don't know what the next album will be like. It might be different again, but now at least it felt like a liberating and good decision with Shadowfall.
Did Bruno's wide vocal range make it easier for you to write songs for Shadowfall?
Hannes: It clearly affected the creation of some songs. Bruno's sound had a lot to do with how I wrote songs. I think it's funny, but for example "Ones to Fall" is a song I wrote when we didn't have a singer. I made the melodies myself thinking that is how I would sing this song. The song ended up suiting Bruno even better than it would have suited Nils. It starts lower and goes higher, with a lot of variation and dynamics. In a way it is a perfect match because when Bruno started singing, it worked right away. That happens sometimes. Bruno and I also worked together a lot. After I had done an arrangement or melody, we sometimes changed it a little bit or we came up with an extra modification, for example starting lower and going higher. We created it together and produced it together, that's another way Bruno contributed to Shadowfall and the effect of his voice in it. Surely if we had done the songs with Nils, they would have been slightly different.
You mentioned those bonus tracks. Do you have even more material written?
Hannes: Yes, there are indeed more songs, but not all are ready yet. We are already working on the next album and there are seven songs written for it. I hope next year we will be able to go back to the studio to make new stuff.
It's always a good thing to strike while the iron is hot.
Hannes: That's right.
Was it hard to decide which order the song were in for the record?
Hannes: For many of the songs, I knew how to place them. The beginning and the end were easy but for the middle part it was a bit more difficult to decide the order. We had bonus tracks, and we exchanged ideas as to what would be best for this album, because the bonus tracks are not bad songs at all. We started thinking about which songs go best with this album instead of just picking the best songs. If a similar song was already on the album, another song was designated a bonus track to give Shadowfall variety and liveliness.
APOCALYPSE NOW 2.0
The cover art for Shadowfall was made by the French artist Pierre-Alain D. Did the idea come from him, or did you make suggestions yourself?
Hannes: It was from me. In fact, I made my own version of it, Photoshopped the raw version and told him it was pretty much what I wanted but in his style. That's how it was born.
There is a demonic-looking lady on the album cover. Where did the idea for that come from?
Hannes: The lady figure was kind of the concept of Shadowfall. It is a bit like the end of the world, where this female deity or some entity destroys the world. Something like that...
Your record company has sent Shadowfall to many media outlets and all the reviews I've seen are overwhelmingly positive. Did it surprise you at all or did you expect that?
Hannes: I shared the link with friends and a few acquaintances who are in the music business, and they gave me similar feedback, so I was aware of what might come from it. Of course, we all have a lot of faith in this material. Each of us feels that these songs really work, not only on the album but also live. On Mooncult, it's been a bit problematic that not all the songs work as well live as they do on the album. If you have a really long song that tells a story, and someone hears it for the first time without knowing what the song is all about, it might be hard to grasp or get your head around what's going on with those 15 riffs, speech parts and so on, meaning that the song is not necessarily that big of a hit. Our focus on Shadowfall was very much on making songs that are really compact. We will always have complicated stuff, we'll surely never get rid of that, so we have orchestrated and epic sections, lots of different parts and everything, but now we wanted to make something as compact as possible. We wondered if certain parts really needed to be repeated many times, or if it was enough if we took half out, and thereby made it more approachable but still sound like our music.
ON THE TOUR WITH POWER METAL GIANTS
Silver Bullet supported Stratovarius on their headlining tour in Finland in November and December 2022. How would you sum up your experience of touring with one of the biggest power metal bands?
Hannes: It was absolutely perfect for us. All the guys in the band think that there really couldn't have been a better match for us in Finland. They are such a legendary band we've all listened to. Although our music not exactly power metal in that way, it is similar enough. There aren't that many bands in Finland that we could tour with and belong to the same category, so I think it was quite a lottery win in that respect.
How did you get this opportunity to tour with them?
Hannes: It came through our booking agency Pyramidi Booking. I've been trying to arrange this for years. We have contacted them and asked if there was any chance. Usually, Stratovarius does not have a supporting band, they have always toured without a warm-up act in Finland. Now the inquiry came from their side letting us know about this chance, and, of course, we said yes right away!
Silver Bullet will be joining Twilight Force on their three-week European tour in January 2023. You'll play around 20 gigs, and the first one in Copenhagen is already sold out. Exciting times ahead, right?
Hannes: Yes, we can't wait to see how it goes and we are really excited to finally get there. This is the same tour we were supposed to do at the time of Mooncult, with a slightly different lineup. Twilight Force was the headliner also back then, but the tour has been postponed over and over again. Now we are hoping that it actually happens!
In 2020, Majestica and Dragony were supposed to be in the tour lineup, but now an American band called Seven Spires will be touring with you. Do you know how these changes took place?
Hannes: No, I don't know more than that.
Will Reaper Entertainment bring all the merch to Europe for you, or will you need to take everything with you? You seem to have received some merch in advance going by your merch booth here.
Hannes: Yea, they will handle getting the merch to Europe. Yes, I managed to get vinyl and CDs on time, but not the shirts and other things. We have been a bit afraid of this tour being postponed once again, so we didn't want to go for everything fully. But now there are no more options.
Were the gigs in Tampere yesterday and today in Helsinki sort of testing grounds to see how new songs work live, and will you play all songs from Shadowfall tonight?
Hannes: Not all the new songs. We still have the mandatory old hits in the set, but these gigs are important for us to get ourselves in tune again because it's been almost a month since we played with Stratovarius. It will be nice to play a couple of gigs before we go to Europe.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Will we see Silver Bullet at some festivals this summer?
Hannes: We have some plans, but nothing we can announce yet. The spring concerts are currently being sold.
Do the gig organizers usually contact you or do you need to make contact yourself?
Hannes: Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not. I do have to constantly do everything I can to get gigs at the moment. In my opinion, corona still affects bands, especially a medium-sized band like ours, so there aren't that many opportunities yet.
You already mentioned that new songs have been written and it will be time to go back to the studio next year, right?
Hannes: Yes, I've thought about it. It could be possible. Of course, it depends on many things, but I think that once the tour is done, we will have a strong focus on writing new songs. Of course, we play gigs all the time but if we are not on tour elsewhere, I will be writing songs all the time.
Do you need a quiet space to write songs or are you able to write songs while on tour?
Hannes: I always have riffs and ideas in my head. When warming up I play all kinds of things and record them on my phone, but the main process is quite impossible if you don't put a lot of effort and focus into it, because there are so many elements that affect it. It's not just a riff and three chords and that's it. It requires concentration. I'm pretty sure the next album will be a theme album again, that will affect it a lot, too.
STICKING WITH REAPER?
Does Reaper Entertainment put any pressure on the record making schedule?
Hannes: No, and actually Shadowfall is the last album with Reaper Entertainment, then we start working on a new contract, either with them or someone else. I've been really happy with how things have worked out, especially with Shadowfall. We have been regularly in touch. It is easy with a small record label. Well, of course, I hope that this album and tour will help us to get, if not a deal with a bigger record label, at least to Reaper Entertainment's top. That's the aim here all the time.
So, taking baby steps forward all the time...
Hannes: Yes, and I have told the guys many times that sometimes it is frustrating if we can't get forward, but our work is to get long-term fans. We are not a band that makes radio hits, works like crazy for two years and then nothing. We are creating a long-term fan base where ten years later people are still like, "hey, that's a song from Mooncult." That's what we create and have to create as a band like this. In addition to festivals and playing as opening acts it also requires our own gigs, even if they are smaller venues, but it's still important for those people to see 1 hour and 20 minutes of Silver Bullet. That's the thing for them.
I think the more you tour the better, and doing festivals are great, especially for reaching a bigger crowd.
Hannes: Yes, that's right. At festivals we do the groundwork, and at our own smaller gigs long-term fans are made. If we never have our own shows, we can never have a fan base that comes only to see Silver Bullet. We are aiming to play a gig at a sold-out Tavastia Club in Helsinki, Finland. That's what we want to do and not be always supporting other bands somewhere. It will not happen unless we work hard and get people excited about us enough that they will show up at our next gig. Festival gigs have their good and bad sides. There are a lot of people who see you for the first time, but at the same time, there is always a bigger band that will stick in their mind. People are more likely to remember Iron Maiden's show than a band who played earlier in the day. That's how it goes, but we have to get rid of that by not only playing at festivals but going to the grassroots level and getting people on our side, just a few people at a time because at the end of the day, that's what matters most.
Another good thing about festivals is that when a random person comes to see a band and in the best scenario ends up digging it, the next thing he/she does is goes to find the merch table. The metal crowd is known to buy a lot merch, and not just t-shirts...
Hannes: Exactly! That keeps our band alive. Streaming doesn't bring in the same amount of money and record sales don't make it work either. Gigs and merchandise, shirt sales especially, makes it possible for us to finance our work and do it at a better level. That's where we want to go and need the money to do things even bigger and better.
Now I'll give my friend a chance to ask something, so go ahead, Hessu...
Hessu: First of all, I was in Lahti, Finland, where Silver Bullet opened for Stratovarius, and after that it was, without a doubt, clear to me that I would also come over here (Helsinki) to see the Silver Bullet gig tonight.
Hannes: It is awesome that people find us this way. What is a bit problematic is that many people go to the gigs just to see the same bands over and over again. Then they kind of start to get disappointed, because it's so familiar, the same band again, but they don't dare to make a change and go to some small place that has a band they might be interested in. People get stuck in a way. They consume music all the time, but only music from the same bands, and then they get a little bored with that music and it becomes a bit like background music, even if they could find a new, awesome band which is still small. If a band is small, it never means the music is bad. In my opinion, people should dare to go to smaller gigs as well and notice how damn cool it is!
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
Hessu: What is your weapon of choice in your guitar arsenal?
Hannes: I've been using Jackson for quite a long time. I am now actually getting a custom guitar, hopefully for the upcoming tour. The guitar is completely customized for me, and also has this special thing of being the very first guitar made by this company. It's a brand-new company, R-Go from Tampere, Finland, and they wanted me to promote them. They have some new things, patents, that others don't have. Let's see when I get to play the guitar, hopefully next week that is!
Alright, that was it. Thanks a lot for your time, Hannes. It's always nice to talk to you!
Hannes: Thank you.
|Other information about Silver Bullet on this site|
|Interview with guitarists Henri Asikainen and Hannes Horma on March 16, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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