Interview DIVISION

             A Talk With NICK KELLY            &               MIKE BLEVINS


METAL TO INFINITY

I’m very pleased with your presence here on my own Metal To Infinity webzine. Hell yeah, give support to the US Metal scene is what i like brother! You guys are pretty busy making great US Metal for more than a decade now. First there was visionary, followed by Division. Why have you changed the bandname and how did the idea of starting up these bands emerge? 

Nick (Kelly, singer):  Hey, thanks a ton for the interest.  We’ve been doing this in a number of forms for a long time, with each of us in different projects and every odd thing you can think of.  For the actual Division history, though, you have to ask Mike.  He’s the last of the founding members from the Visionary days. 

Mike (Blevins, guitar): Thanks for the interest – it’s nice to know someone remembers our old stuff! Matt Crooks (the other founding member, who left last year) and I had known each other for a while, and he called me up in the spring of ’93 because he knew I wasn’t in a band and he was looking for another guitarist for the project he was working on. We were both looking to do something that wasn’t “cool” at the time – since Grunge was all the rage in U.S.

So we thought we might be able to work together. I went out and jammed with them, and something clicked, and after picking up original vocalist Scott Stewart, Visionary was born. We changed our name to Division in ’95 after the Visionary that is now Reading Zero contacted us to say they had a record deal, and would we change our name. Of course, they ended up changing their name, too, courtesy of the band from Utah.

 

You’re the singer in the band. Did you play in other bands before? 

Nick:  Actually, Division is the first band I’ve been in where all I do is sing.  I’ve played bass and guitar in a ton of bands.  I was playing crappy biker bars when I was 17, so this has been a long time coming for me.  I really enjoy being the front man, though, even through all the jokes about being pretty that I get from the musicians in the band.  It’s so much fun to just jump around and make sure that people know we enjoy what we do.  I think everyone in this band just lives for the live shows.

 

Are you a true fascinated Metal musician and what about the sources of inspiration?  

Mike: Our new guitarist Dave calls me a “walking thrash dictionary”. I definitely grew up playing metal – I can still play Maiden songs from the first four albums on command – and I’d say my major influences were Maiden, Metallica, Queensryche, Forbidden, Testament, Thin Lizzy, and Schenker-era UFO. As a musician I listen to – and draw inspiration from - a lot of things, from classical to jazz to pop and even some country, since my wife’s a country singer.  

Nick:  I always like to describe it this way.  Think of metal as home.  I love to travel, but I always come back home.  So I’ll go listen to anything from reggae to rap to country to soul, but I always come back to metal.  I think it helps us stay away from any tired formulas but we never forget the real foundation of what our music is.

 

Division went through a lot of line-up changes through the years. Some of them left the ranks. Why did they took the decision of leaving the band? 

Nick:  Oh, boy.  This is going to be good.  Mike? 

Mike:  Man, lots of different reasons. Metal was really "uncool" in the U.S. until about 2001 or so, so we’ve had some rough times, and it’s not like the band’s paying the bills. There were some personality clashes, and a lot of just moving on to other things. I feel like every change has made us stronger in some way, and that the lineup we currently have, with five guys moving in the same direction, is the best yet.

 

To replace the leaving guys, how difficult was that Nick? 

Nick:  We’ve been fortunate to do a lot of shows with a lot of talented people, and in the U.S. scene, you never really lose touch with people.  When we needed new members, a lot of times people contacted us and we didn’t do a lot of looking.  Sometimes, it really is a challenge to find someone with the right talent level and the right attitude.  A lot of times switching members really changes the sound of the band.  I know I’m nothing like Scott (Stewart) was as a singer, so the band has to consider how different it will sound, too.

 

"Paradise Lost" was Division’s self-released debut album and i’m truly proud to have that album in my collection! Your own vision about the final results of that album would be great to know, brother. What kinda Metal maniacs should be very pleased with an album like this? 

Mike: I like most of the songs still to this day. The production was actually pretty good, but I wish we’d actually had it mastered before we released it, as it would sound much better. Even though that one is more “traditional” than what we’d do later on, there’s still a lot of the seeds of what Division sounds like today in that one.  

 

A new album entitled "Ascension To Eternity" came out three years later through Siegen Records. Also, this album shines very bright in my CD collection. My opinion: awesome album, even better than previous one...what’s your opinion, Nick? 

Nick:  I followed Division for a long time before I joined the band.  I loved the shows I saw on the tour promoting Ascension.  I think the band was really clicking at the time, and that the song writing had come a long way.  After I joined, we had a chance to cover and re-visit a lot of the material off of that disc, and it’s fun to go back and do those songs.  I really like the future of this band though, and the things we’re writing now, better than anything Division has done in the past.   

Mike: I definitely think our writing got a lot more consistent, and there’s a few songs on there that I think are simply magical, especially the last three "new" songs ("Eraser", "Veiled", and "Remembrance"). We struggled a lot with things during the writing process, but I like the results.

 

So far, which album do you prefer? Why? 

Mike: "Ascension", definitely. Of the first two, it’s a much more cohesive "Division" album. "Paradise" has some really good songs on it, but our identity isn’t there yet. 

 

Than we had to wait for quite a few years until a new Division album saw the light of day. Why did it take so long to release your third album "Trinity"? 

Mike: It was really a mess. We had the entire thing written by the spring of 2000, and recorded with Brian Thomas, our drummer at the time, and original vocalist Scott Stewart. While we were waiting on our label at the time to shop it for licensing outside the U.S., Brian left, and then Scott left. So we got E.J. Ripple (the drummer from the "Ascension" CD) back, and found Nick, and completely re-recorded the disc, with a couple of the weaker songs omitted. Our contract was sold to Metal Ages while that version was being shopped, and so it finally came out in 2004, after having been done for three years. So the songs were basically 5-6 years old when the disc came out. 

Nick:  Yeah, that CD was really done multiple times, and label issues and band changes.  So it was a miracle that it saw the light of day, in some ways.  

 

Actually, that album is the one i haven’t found so far, unfortunately. I’ll keep on searching but please tell me what to expect...same style as before i guess, i mean fantastic US Metal! 

Nick:  Well, my vocals are completely different from Scott’s, so be ready for that when you hit play.  The song writing is really in line with Ascension, though I think a little more creative in terms of vision.  There are a few solos that I will never get tired of hearing no matter how many times we play them.  It was a real challenge for me to become a singer and I’m very proud of Trinity and what it represents from us at that time. 

Mike: The writing is definitely another step up. There’s things I would change about "Ascension", as far as the songwriting goes. There’s nothing I’d change about "Trinity" – those songs were as good as we could make them. 

 

A self-release followed by an album through Siegen Records and finally Metal Ages did the third one. An explanation please. 

Mike: Well, let’s just say that things haven’t gone so well with labels. We had a difference of opinion about how Siegen marketed “Ascension”, and then we signed a deal with Progressive Arts Music, and that contract eventually got sold to MetalAges when PAM’s owner decided to concentrate on a different form of music. Of course, MetalAges has now folded, too, so who knows where the next one will be? 

 

Division is a band that appears on several tribute and compilation albums, right. What’s your personal cover song ever made Nick? 

Nick:  When we cover a song, we always try to stay true to the original and still adapt it to our sound.  I’d say the thing that really makes a cover cool to me is when you’re singing it and every person in the crowd is screaming it back at you.  We did a show with Black Label Society where we played Creeping Death by Metallica and every fist was in the air and every one was shouting with us.  It was awesome! 

Mike: My favorite of all of them we’ve done is “Rainbow In The Dark” on the “Awaken the Demon” tribute from Dwell. We ended up doing a lot of tributes just to keep the name out there between discs, since they haven’t exactly come out quickly.

 

How’s the nowadays situation in the Division camp? Some new songs are ready to unleash and new blood entered the ranks...spread the word if you like. 

Mike: This is the best lineup we’ve had in this band. James and Ron are growing together nicely as a rhythm section, Dave fit right in on guitar, and of course Nick gets to finally do his own thing. Everything’s clicking, the live show is back to the intensity I like, and "Hunt", the demo song that circulating now is probably the best song we’ve ever written. All the new songs are at least that good.   

Nick:  This is the first time I’ve had a chance to write the lyrics and start from scratch with the guys in the writing process.  There’s a lot of blood and dying on the new stuff so far, including some fun shots I take at people.  The first single, Hunt, is up on our MySpace site:  www.myspace.com/divisionusa There’s also a few other songs up there for people to check out.  If you like vampires and the chicks that like vampires, Hunt is a fun song.

 

Minneapolis Mayhem 3 will happen on 25 – 26 August 2006? Division on the same bill with greats like Omen, Jag Panzer, Hirax, Helstar, October 31, Raven, Imagika and lots of other breathtaking Metal acts! This must be the fest of the year, isn’t it? 

Nick:  We’ve played with a lot of big names in the past, hell, even in the last year or so.  I have to say playing with Raven was an amazing experience.  They are very gracious and absolutely cool.  I can’t wait for MM3, it’s going to be crazy. 

Mike:  It’s certainly one of the good ones, for sure. John’s done a great job with getting the lineup together, and we’re very happy to be playing it. It’ll be nice to see some of the guys – like Jag Panzer and Raven – that we haven’t seen for a while, too, and to hang with out friends from Imagika. I know it’s going to be a good time, and a great show.

 

Wanna make some promotion, just go for it man...here’s your time and space. 

Nick:  I think the first thing is that we just have to say a huge "thank you" to everyone who’s been following us and supporting us all these years.  It’s a very fun ride and we love the people who come along on it with us.  Other than that, hit our sites and stay tuned for the new songs, and come to Minnesota!  www.division-usa.com   www.myspace.com/divisionusa  

Mike: Thanks to everyone that’s bought a CD, a shirt, a ‘zine with a review or interview, and has stayed with us through the years. We’re here to stay, and the best is yet to come! 

 

Besides playing Metal music, what keeps you busy actually? 

Nick:  With the U.S. scene the way it is, we all have other jobs to help pay the bills.  We also never lose sight of our families and time with them is important.  The band keeps us very busy though.  Even with no shows, we’re still together several nights a week, drinking, rehearsing, drinking and doing promotion, drinking, going to see bands, drinking.   

Mike: I don’t think Nick mentioned drinking, but we’ve been doing that, too.

 

Well, i look forward to hear the new songs and wish you all the best of luck with Divison and other things in life. Speak some final words to end this intie if you like Nick. Thanx a ton by the grace of US Metal!!! 

Nick:  Thanks a ton and long live MTI! 

Mike:  Thanks indeed, and keep it heavy!

http://www.myspace.com/divisionusa

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