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27/12/2007 – Interview with Veronica Freeman (BENEDICTUM)

Almost two years after their debut, "Uncreation", the American Power Metal band BENEDICTUM (website) has unleashed the follow-up: "Seasons Of Tragedy". In the review you'll find out that the music has greatly improved, also due to the better production, once again by Jeff Pilson.

As a result of the this new album, I had an phone interview with frontwoman Veronica Freeman back in December. Awaiting the corrections and approval from her, it's only now that I managed to process it all. She talked about "Seasons Of Tragedy", the tour with Doro, the deal with Locomotive Records, and more.

Benedictum logo

First of all I want to say that I'm very pleased with the result of "Seasons Of Tragedy", much more so than "Uncreation". If I may say so, and don't take this personally, I found it more to be "Look, we can play US Power Metal." and sort lacked depth, like you were still looking for the band feel, a connection. But the new album is much better.

Thank you. I'm glad you like it.

Veronica Freeman - BenedictumWell, in my review of "Uncreation"" I wasn't too positive, as only a few songs jumped out. Then, a few weeks ago, I received the promo of "Seasons Of Tragedy" and was fearing for a second "Uncreation". *laughs* But it turned out well, as the production is very good, the songs dito, ...

Yes, I agree. The sound quality, the fidelity... it's all much better. I loved "Uncreation" as well, but I think there was a certain growth to this new album and a bit more variety of songs. Jeff put even more of himself into the production process, which as usual taught us so much.

With all the gigs you had last year and this year, when did you start working on the new material?

Things got off very quickly with the debut album. One of our first gigs was Gods Of Metal in Italy and some shows around that. Then we came back for some festivals and tour support for DORO and then performed at Wacken, which was a blast. Whenever we can, Pete and I work on new material, but with such a crazy schedule we had to really concentrate and focus. We did most of the writing right after the DORO tour.

That was kind of a suprise, wasn't it? One album and immediately the big stage?

I am really grateful for what we have achieved thus far. We were pretty blown away with how fast the shows and festivals came and we LOVED IT! But you are absolutely right, we were very surprised!

Looking at the cover art, it's very epic, also considering the album title. Are you trying to make a statement?

You took the words out of my mouth: epic. It's powerful. The label chose the artist - Gyula Havancsak - for us and we are very happy with the results. He has done work with GRAVE DIGGER, ANNIHILATOR, EXODUS, does convey the power behind the song "Seasons of Tragedy", but I wouldn't go so far as to say that we were making a statement. But that's ok too! :-)

So what's the link with the songs then?

If you listen closely to the album, you will see that there is a musical thread through some of the songs. A recurring riff pops up throughout the album. As far as a link with the artwork, you will find the elements of the birds which are depicted in the song "Seasons of Tragedy". The four birds (owl, sparrow raven and eagle) all impart knowledge to the soul on its journey to enlightenment, which is what the song is about.

What about the heart and snake on the scales?

Seasons Of Tragedy coverThat was his idea (cover artist). He made the artwork before reading the lyrics or hearing the music, but it came out so cool and close to what we had in mind that it worked, especially when we were able to have him add elements from the song itself.

Is there any political message? I mean, it's starts with the intro "Dawn Of Seasons" and then you get the machine-gun drumming of "Shell Shock".

You're the first one to get that. Let me tell you what "Shell Shock" is about: there are soldiers on both frontlines, in any war!, and they don't have time to worry about politics in either country. They're trying to fulfill their duty, to survive the day. It's war from a soldier's point of view.

On "Seasons Of Tragedy" you also have a few collaborations:

Craig Goldy - obvious, sine he 'pushed' you/the band
Jeff Pilson - another logical choice
Manni Schmidt and George Lynch

How did they get into the picture?

Our A&R person at the label (Chris Boltendahl) is the singer of GRAVE DIGGER and we had a chance to meet Manni while we were on tour with Doro. Manni and his wife were kind enough to even make the band dinner at their house. We joked around with the idea then and when the time came, I got the nerve to ask him and he was more than happy to do it. George is one of Jeff's contacts, from when he played in DOKKEN. We were scared to ask him, but we for it after all. George plays the solo on "Bare Bones" and both Jeff and George are on "Balls To The Wall".

On "Uncreation" you had two BLACK SABBATH covers - since you played in a BLACK SABBATH tribute band before -, now there's the ACCEPT song. Why exactly that song?

Yes, on the first album the second BLACK SABBATH cover was supposed to be a bonus track, but the label decided to put it on the main CD. On "Seasons of Tragedy", I had always thought how cool it would be to have a woman sing "Balls to the Wall", so I went for it. I had to approach it as something that was going to be a lot of fun!

Did you have to practise a lot?

You mean for "Balls to the Wall"? Yes! I proposed the idea, then started to get cold feet. I really needed a lot of encouragement, so both Pete and Jeff were there to help me relax and just have fun with it!

Speaking of the song writing process, I've read in another interview that when you have an idea, you go to Jeff and then work it out further.

That must have been something taken out of the context. Pete will have riffs, which I listen to and let me get inspired. If something sparks me, we'll work on the arrangements. Before the recording, we ask for Jeff's advice. He took at lot of stuff and broke it down (for "Uncreation"). With this one ("SOT") we got the process down better. It didn't need as many changes, but we still rely on Jeff's ear and great song writing and production skills.

So the others then play as they are told...?

There's always room for input, we accept ideas from everyone.

Regarding the live performances: how was the response from the audience?

It blows me away, especially in Europe. People know the lyrics, the songs, ... We get a lot of energy from our fans when we play live. That is what it's all about!

So you popularity is bigger in Europe than the States?

Yes. In the States they are still finding out about us and "Uncreation". Not too many people know about "SOT", but we are working to spread the word and hopefully we will get some decent promotion here so that the U.S. audiences will get to know more about us.

The deal with Locomotive Records, how did it come about and how happy are you so far?

It came about when we tried one last time to get a demo together and get a deal. We didn't have illusions at that time. We weren't exactly the flavour of the day over here in the States so we knew our best chances were in the European market. A manager at the time had some contacts and he shopped us for a record deal. The best offer came from Locomotive Records. We signed a 2-album deal, so "SOT" is that second album. The people I work with are in the German office, I don't have much contact with Spanish office though. Happy? Well, I must say that the office in Germany works really hard for us and our promotion over there, but I would just love to see a bit more tour support maybe and more promo here in the States. However, overall I am really pleased with how Locomotive has treated us and consider them good friends.

Isn't Locomotive one of the bigger labels in the USA?

As far as I know, Locomotive does not have a large presence here in the States. I understand that they will be opening an office in New York this year, so lets see how that goes.

Benedictum band picture 2007Any tour plans for "SOT"?

We're still waiting. Our booking agent is trying to get us some gigs for March, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully we will get a game plan together soon for 2008.

How easily can you divide your time between BENEDICTUM and other occupations?

I run a company, which takes a lot of my time. BENEDICTUM is not a money-making business at this point. We put a lot of money in it, though. We would LOVE to see that change though. All of us have regular jobs and careers and work hard to make BENEDICTUM happen. I have a company called Streetfighters Inc. - - and also Wild Hair Accessories - -, which sells motorcycle accessories from Germany to the US market. The goal is to bring the Streetfighter scene to the States. So I have a lot of accounting and bookkeeping to do.

Going back to the gigs: Before going on stage, do you have any special preparations?

No, except being nervous as hell. I still haven't gotten over it. I pace back and forth, always during those few moments before the show. Somehow I don't think that will ever change. The only preparations I make are to make sure I am really hydrated while on stage and of course to make sure not to fall off of my high healed boots, haha!

With all the albums that are released nowadays - incl. lots of crap - does it put more pressure on you, to keep having a contract?

I think there is always pressure after the debut album. The debut was well received, and you can only rest on that for so long. There's always more pressure to do even better on the next one..

How important is MySpace for you/the band?

It's a great tool. It allows so many artists to be heard. We got a few shows out of that right here in the States from contacts on Myspace, so it has been a great blessing for us!

Looking back at 2007, what releases stood out for you?

Seems that in 2007 it was all about getting my new business started, writing and recording the album and I really didn't have the opportunity to check out too much new music. I will say that I did enjoy GRAVE DIGGER's "Liberty or Death" album a lot. I need to get caught up on some new releases this year.. that is one of my goals for 2008.

When you're on tour and not gigging, how do you kill time?

Sleeping and some sight-seeing. :-) In Europe, on tour with Doro, we wanted to do that, but we didn't get the chance to see much of anything. We did a few things, though. Next year, we plan to see more, but that all depends on how much time we have between shows etc.

When writing songs, can you write at any given moment or do you have to be in a certain mood or place?

I have to be in a specific mood, a creative mood. Other times I'm not thinking at all and stuff does appear. I wish I could write all the time, but that's not how it works with me. I never have been one that could just sit down and say "Ok, today you will write.". I need some inspiration, I guess. :-)

Has your taste in music evolved a lot and what do you listen to in general?

I can listen to anything: Metal, classical, Jazz... I really love Big Band. Country is also something I can enjoy and when I am stressed out there is nothing like Classical music to chill me out. But metal is my love!

Do you draw inspiration from other styles?

Yes, I draw inspiration from all sorts of things including commercial jingles.. all types of music and sounds.

One last question: How do you keep your voice intact?

By yelling at my husband. *laughs* But really, nothing serious. I don't take or have taken any lessons, although I probably should.

Well, that was it. Many thanks for calling...and I hope to see you in Belgium so I can talk to you in person. :-)

Will do. Thank you for your time! We appreciate it more than you know!

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