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Welcome to the OFFICIAL Web Site For ProgPower USA IX Interviews!

ProgPower USA

Organizer Glenn Harveston again allowed me to be the official band interviewer for ProgPower USA. So, to Glenn, I say “Many thanks!” To all those about to read my interviews, I say “Get ready for an experience unlike any other in metal journalism!”

On with the show…

Lars Larsen: “I Have To Fight For Every Inch I Take With My Singing”

The Black Circus, Part 2I spoke to Manticora’s energetic front man Lars Larsen about two weeks ago, on August 13. Our long, winding, and hilarious conversation covered topics ranging from his new foray into fatherhood to favorite books to the upcoming U.S. tours with Gamma Ray and Helloween, then with Jon Oliva’s Pain and Circle II Circle.

What follows is one of the most comprehensive interviews with Lars available anywhere. If you want to know what makes Lars Larsen tick, what drives him to succeed, read on.

For the uninitiated, Manticora was formed in Hvidovre, Denmark, in 1996. The power-metal band has released six albums to date.

NOTE: All band and personal photos illustrating this interview are courtesy of Lars who spent a week or so searching for them and then, kindly, allowing them to be seen by everyone. Many thanks, Lars! I owe you one. (Or several.) Special thanks to my wife, Elisabeth, for transcribing this one so quickly. I owe you my heart and soul.

Enjoy!

LL: Hello, Bill.

BM: Hey, Lars. How are you?

LL: I’m pretty good, man. Pretty good. I am tired, I must admit, but that’s ok. [laughs]

BM: Would you like to do it a different night?

LL: No, no, it’s cool. I just became a father a week ago, so the child is not sleeping very well at night. [laughs] Keeping me awake all the time. [Read more →]

Jon Schaffer: “Iced Earth Has Always Been About…A Way Of Life And A Certain Dedication”

The Crucible of ManIced Earth is a band that requires little introduction. Since the release of their self-titled debut in 1990, Iced Earth has built a loyal, world wide following that has allowed them to establish themselves as one of the preeminent names in Metal. Despite constant line-up changes, label changes and serious back problems, Iced Earth mastermind Jon Schaffer has guided his band through it all. He speaks his mind openly and honestly, with candor and without pretension. I (Greg) recently had an opportunity to chat with Jon about the departure of Tim “Ripper” Owens, the return of Matt Barlow and the conclusion of the “Something Wicked” saga.

This interview was recently conducted by Greg, aka General Zod on the ProgPower USA Forum.

Jon: Hello

Greg: Hey Jon.

Jon: Hey man, what’s happening?

Greg: Going well. Is this the beginning or the end of a very long day of press for you?

Jon: It’s getting towards the end. I got about an hour and a half to go.

Greg: OK… well I try not to be too redundant.

Jon: Alright. (laughter) [Read more →]

Esa Holopainen: “I’m Really Happy That We Are [Called] Amorphis And Not Gore Fest Or Something Like This”

Silent WatersNo doubt about it. Amorphis is legendary, a much-loved powerhouse of a band whose place in history is secure. And not just in their native Finland, although they recently were awarded a gold record there for their latest releases, Eclipse [2006] and Silent Waters [2007]. Their eight CDs. spanning a remarkable 16-year career, run the gamut from death metal to some of the most sublime melodic power metal ever recorded and are held in such high regard by fans worldwide they might as well all be made of gold.

So I was thrilled to interview, at length, guitarist and co-founder Esa Holopainen on May 6, 2008. The interview was conducted via Skype. Special thanks to Esa for providing the photos of himself.

Enjoy!

EH: Hello?

BM: Hi, is this Esa?

EH: Yes, it’s me. Hi Bill.

BM: Hi, how you doin’?

EH: Doing all right thanks.

BM: Oh good. Good, good. Did I call at the right time?

EH: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s good. And Skype seems to work as well, so it’s good. [laughs] [Read more →]

Bassist Mariusz Duda: “Riverside Has Two Faces…The Studio Face And The Live Face”

Rapid Eye MovementRiverside is mesmerizing. Plain and simple. Case closed. Next?

Seriously, in the span of just three full-length albums (a trilogy comprised of Out of Myself, 2003, Second Life Syndrome, 2005, and Rapid Eye Movement, 2007), plus a couple of EPs (Voices in My Head, 2005, and 02 Panic Room, 2007), Poland’s Riverside has become the new Pink Floyd meets Opeth meets Porcupine Tree meets, well, no one. Although sporting the sublime craftsmanship of the aforementioned bands, they have managed to transcend comparisons to reach the rarified status of being wholly unique.

After a long, two-month process trying to connect with bassist Mariusz Duda, he and I had a lengthy chat on June 18, 2008.

You’re welcome to eavesdrop.

Enjoy!

MD: Hello?

BM: Is this Mariusz?

MD: [laughs] Oh yeah, it’s me. Hi.

BM: Hi, this is Bill Murphy.

MD: Finally.

BM: [laughs] Yeah, this is great.

MD: Yeah, I know. To be honest I didn’t realize how important this is, and I’m very sorry for the last, for the Monday. I had a situation, I had to go and I was waiting a little bit, but unfortunately, some problems. But it’s already fixed, so it’s ok. [Read more →]

S.U.E. Keyboardist Fred Colombo: “Perhaps If We Had Thought a Little Longer About That Band Name…”

AnimaWhat can one say about Spheric Universe Experience (S.U.E.) that hasn’t already been said in dozens, if not hundreds, of reviews around the world? For a relatively new band (they released just two albums – Mental Torments, 2005, and Anima, 2007), they’ve quickly become a fan-favorite, known far and wide for composing powerful, intricate, yet melodic music.

My interview with keyboard player Fred Colombo took place on April 11, 2008. Between then and now, according to the band’s web site, SUE experienced the loss of long-time drummer Ranko Muller who left after four years to dedicate himself fulltime to extreme metal with his bands Artefact and Otargos. The new drummer for SUE is Christophe Briand, a drum teacher at the national musical academy of Cannes.

Special thanks to Fred for supplying the photos.

On with our interview!

FC: Hello?

BM: Hello, is this Fred?

FC: I am Fred.

BM: Hi, Fred. This is Bill Murphy.

FC: Hello Bill.

BM: How are you today?

FC: I’m fine, I’m fine.

BM: Good.

FC: How about you? [Read more →]

Iron Savior Founder/Guitarist Piet Sielck: “I’m Quite An Easy-To-Get-Along-With Person”

MegatropolisIt’s impossible not to like Iron Savior founder/guitarist Piet Sielck – even when he accidentally stands you up for an interview to take in a last-minute vacation out to sea. But it’s also hard to get upset at him when I, myself, did it to Martin Hedin of Andromeda (minus the vacation to sea). Karma’s a bitch.

In a career that has taken him around the world – working with such bands as Savage Circus, Gamma Ray, and, for over 10 years and seven albums, Iron Savior – Piet has become known as a brilliant studio wizard as well as a highly motivated singer/songwriter/guitarist. And yet, as his entry in Wikipedia states, “he maintains a good relationship with many bands” – a relatively uncommon trait I asked him about during our lengthy phone interview on May 15, 2008.

SPOILER ALERT: Piet mentions a few of the songs Iron Savior will play at PPUSA. So don’t read any further if you want to be totally surprised when they take the stage. (Thanks, nailz!)

Enjoy!

PS: Hey Bill.

BM: Hey Piet. How are you?

PS: [laughs] Well, I’m doing ok. [laughs] So how are you?

BM: [laughs] Doing very well, thank you very much.

PS: It’s good that we finally made it.

BM: [laughs] Yeah, no more trips to the Baltic, huh? [Read more →]

Andromeda Keyboardist Martin Hedin: “We’ve Never Been Over To The States, So It’s Going To Be Very Exciting”

ChimeraIt’s a good thing Andromeda keyboardist Martin Hedin is a patient man with a great sense of humor. In my effort to coordinate the six-hour time difference between Eastern Standard Time and Sweden – plus do so using the 24-hour (military time) convention – I miscalculated by an hour. When I finally called Martin’s home, he was already gone. As Homer would say, “D’oh!”

Apologizing profusely, I rescheduled. And this time, I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked to make sure I had the time correct. Thankfully, I did.

I thoroughly enjoyed my wide-ranging interview with Martin Hedin, which took place on April 26, 2008.

In a subsequent e-mail, Martin included an attachment with this note, “These are pictures from Progpower scandinavia last autumn. Photo by Daniel Andersson. Hope you can use some of these!” Indeed I can. And did. Thanks, Martin!

Enjoy!

MH: Hello?

BM: Is this Martin?

MH: Yes, it is.

BM: Hi, this is Bill Murphy.

MH: Hey, Bill. [laughs] Finally.

BM: Yeah, I wasn’t going to blow it this time. [laughs] [Read more →]

Pathosray Bassist Fabio D’Amore: “I Am a Fanatic…I Love Music”

PathosrayI love a great debut album.

Some of my fondest memories are of the first albums from Led Zeppelin, KISS, Angel, Bad Company, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Marillion, Kansas, Dream Theater, Heart, Montrose, and Van Halen. I must be masochistic because when a debut album kicks my ass hard, I like it.

I received plenty of butt kicking from the debut album from Italy’s Pathosray. From the plaintive, classical-tinged piano opening (reminiscent of Rick Wakeman on Yes’ Going For the One album) to the Bohemian Rhapsody-like gong that closes the disc, Pathosray’s entry into the power metal world is a riveting, first-class effort all the way. Even the cover art by the one-and-only Mattias Noren (layout and design by Claus Jensen) is gorgeous and easily represents the music within.

My interview with bassist Fabio D’Amore took place on March 23, 2008. The first time I called, I was an hour early. He had just sat down to eat dinner. (It’s tricky sometimes coordinating the various times!)

NOTE: Fabio sent me an e-mail this week and provided this update on the new Pathosray album:

“We’re recording in these days the vocals of the pre-production for the forthcoming album. We’re really, really satisfied and we never heard our songs carrying on better than this before, modern and fresh.”

Can’t wait!

Special thanks to Fabio for taking the time to round up a ton of great pictures and e-mailing them to me. All photos (except for album covers) courtesy of Fabio D’Amore.

And now on to our interview… [Read more →]

Rob Rock: “The Lord Has Sustained Me For a Long Time…It’s Been a Blessing”

Garden of ChaosDuring a career that spans some 25 years (and almost as many albums), Rob Rock has forged a reputation as being one of the finest metal singers in the world. He has worked with everyone from Tony MacAlpine, Tommy Aldridge, Rudy Sarzo, and Chris Impellitteri to Ken Tamplin, Gus G, Roy Z, Jake E. Lee, and Rick Renstrom – among other luminaries too numerous to name. Indeed, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Rob Rock has rubbed shoulders with the top musicians in their respective fields.

Arguably best known for his work with Impellitteri, Rob has released four highly regarded albums on his own – the most recent of which is the jaw-dropping, riff-heavy Garden of Chaos [2007].

I first called Rob on April 2, 2008. It ended up being the longest of my ProgPower USA IX interviews, and one of the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen of Mr. R. and his career. My follow-up interview – to discuss events (the impending release of the new Driver album, and the surprise reformation of the classic Impellitteri line-up) subsequent to that interview – was held last Thursday, July 31.

Many thanks to Rob Rock for time spent with me. Thanks, also, for allowing me, exclusively, to hear songs from the upcoming releases from Driver and Impellitteri. [Read more →]