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27/08/2007 – Interview with BLACK MAJESTY

Australian Power Metal band BLACK MAJESTY (official website) released their third album, "Tomorrowland", a few months ago, once again via the German label Limb Music Products. Since their debut, "Sands Of Time", the band has grown a lot and it didn't take them long to come with a very nice follow-up ("Silent Company"). With "Tomorrowland" they've gone a little further, making the discussion of which is the best release so far quite tough. You can check out the review of the newest album at this location.

As a result of this release I sent a couple of questions to the band to know more about this release, the connection with the previous two records, their deal with LMP and other things. Guitarist Stevie Janevski was in charge of the replies and I'm very satisfied with them.

Black Majesty logo

"Tomorrowland" is just out. How happy are with the result and how are the responses so far?

"Tomorrowland" has been getting a great response form the press and from fans around the world. We've been overwhelmed with the positive response even at this early stage. We had about one year and a half to write the album and we got the chance to demo up all of the songs before hand. This gave us the chance to listen back to the songs and refine parts. Considering the amount of time and budget spent on the new album we are quite pleased with the end result.

Did you work differently on this album, compared to the previous two? Was it easier to write new songs?

We wrote the best songs we could and for us that's what it's all about. We try to always better ourselves with each album. With this being the third release we tried to cater for our fans by progressing from where the last two albums left off - I think the new album "Tomorrowland" definitely has elements of "Sands of Time" and "Silent Company" on it with a few extra differences here and there.

Which themes/subjects are tackled on "Tomorrowland"? Is there a story throughout the tracklisting? Also, are the three album connected to each other?

The "Tomorrowland" album title is about the future world/tomorrowland and asks questions about the future to come. The title track explores this future world - it's the fight to create a better world and quest for a new beginning. "Tomorrowland" is not a concept album although there are some ongoing themes throughout the album. The song "Bleeding World" is also somewhat connected as we talk about what our world has become and talks about what we do in the future can make a difference/impact. Musically I think the albums are all connected. Each album shows where we were in that particular time, kind of like a snapshot. As I said earlier, I think our debut album "Sands of Time" has a bit more progressive elements compared to "Silent Company" which is a bit more power metal based. The new "Tomorrowland" album probably has a mixture of the first two albums. Album cover wise, the albums all have connections. Our artist Dirk Illing continues to explore our recognisable "Black Majesty" figure. The majestic lions are also incorporated on each album.

"Tomorrowland"'s cover art was done Dirk Illing, who also worked on that of "Silent Company". a) What makes him 'your' graphical artist? Why is he better (at the moment) than anyone else?

Dirk has constantly come up with the goods for us and he is a great person to work with. I guess it's all about what works and Dirk's art works for us. Dirk has actually done the art for all three albums.

Black_Majesty - Tomorrowlandb) Like on the previous album, there's the lion and the BLACK MAJESTY girl. I've read in other interviews that this girl is a sort of icon, like IRON MAIDEN has Eddie (to name one other example). What's her role and that of the lion(s)? Is there a link with the themes of the lyrics or do they only serve as 'mascottes'?

Exactly. We grew up with bands such as IRON MAIDEN and DIO and we love their imagery connected to the band. We wanted to create a similar character and somewhat have with the Black Majesty and majestic lions. The Black Majesty is kind of the saviour and on the new album we see that she's got lots of work ahead of her - as the world has taken a turn for the worse. On the first album "Sands of Time" we see her with her light sword raised and ready to fight. On "Silent Company" we notice the lion behind her as her "Silent Company". All of the album covers are connected to the title tracks on all albums, so yes, the lyrics are definitely represented with each albums art work.

Endel Rivers was again the man behind the buttons. I guess he's like the fifth or sixth member of the band, right? Does he also give advice on certain compositions or does he only work on your sound?

Endel has definitely played a big role with our productions. We respect his advice but we as the band are always in charge of what we write and how we want to sound. Being a guitarist and keys player he's also a great man to bounce ideas off. Endel has been great to work with over the past five or six years.

VANISHING POINT vocalist Silvio Massaro again helped with the backing vocals. You guys get along very fine and I guess that's one reason why he is a fitting singer for that, but is there also a musical reason? Something like compatibility?

Our singer John and Silvio have been friends for years. John has helped out with VANISHING POINT and Silvio has done the same with us. It's really cool we can help eachother out. There's great respect there.

Evan Harris played the bass parts on the previous album. Was he again part of the recording process this time? And why not get a permanent bassist?

Evan has been kind of like the fifth member of the band for a long time and yes he's played a session role for us on all albums. Things are more complex than what they appear - for instance contracts and being signed to a label makes things a bit messy at times.

The digipack/limited edition of "Tomorrowland" contains two bonus tracks, "Kingdoms" and "Memories". How do they sound compared to the other tracks? And how do they fit in, story/theme-wise?

We always make a big effort to put high quality tunes on our digi packs/bonus tracks. "Kingdoms" was actually going to be on the "Silent Company" album but we didn't get the time to finish it. We always liked the song so when thinking about bonus tracks for the new album we thought we'd give the tune a bit of a makeover. We were happy with the end result. The song "Memories "was very close to being on the "Tomorrowland" album. Because we only wanted to go with one slower ballad type song for the album we finally chose "Soldier of Fortune" and left "Memories" off. Again, lots of us really like this track.

Related to the previous question: how do you feel about Limited Editions? How important are they, in general and saleswise?

I like Limited Editions for the fact that people are given the choice of buying the album with extras on it. Our label puts the regular cd and limited edition out at the same time so people have a choice right away with which version of the album they want to buy. I don't like it when labels re-release albums a number of times just to get extra sales - making people buy the album a number of times to get all the bonuses. That's ripping off the fans and milking it! The real fans always buy the album right away and shouldn't be ripped off/punished for buying an album as soon as it is released. Limited editions also serve as a great way to promote people to 'buy' the album as opposed to downloading it from the internet. Often the promos only contain the regular version of the cd and it's those songs that are normally available on the net for people to download illegally.

Black Majesty bandSpeaking of sales, do you know how much copies of your first two album have been sold so far? And how well do you think "Tomorrowland" will do? Also, do you have a certain overview of where (= countries) the albums sold the most?

Sales are kind of something we keep to ourselves but I can say we are one of the best sellers for our label Limb Music Products and we've been happy with sales for the first two albums. As for the new album, obviously we hope the album does well but it's not the only thing that's important for us. We've already toured the album throughout Europe and we sold quite a few of the album during the tour so yes it would be nice for the album to continue to do well. The more the album sells, the more we can afford to tour. We have sold well throughout Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, France and England. Surprisingly we've also sold very well in the USA which is great! Fingers crossed that continues and we can get over to the States also. We always have heaps of people writing to us with heaps of support from America.

I've also read that everyone in the band shares his ideas for new song material. But how is everything assembled? Do you all try stuff at your own place and then when the band comes together everything's laid on the table? Or do all ideas, try-outs and what-not come from two or so members, after which the others can comment on them and suggest certain changes?

Most of the time we kind of demo our ideas on our own and then bring them to the band. Hanny and I will often nut out guitar parts and from there we work on drums, vocal lines/melodies and last of all the lyrics. Again this is the way things normally happen. Certain songs don't always follow that formula. For instance, the album opener on "Tomorrowland" called "Forever Damned" was rewriiten a lot and lots of things were chopped and cut to try out different ideas. Sometimes songs come together easy, sometimes they don't. It's really important for us to be open minded with our songwriting.

How do you avoid copying yourselves, rehashing previous material? Or don't you pay that much attention on this?

Honestly, we don't really think about stuff like that too often. If something is not good we normally scrap the idea. We all feel it's important to progress as a band but at the same time stay true to ourselves and our style. We're not the type of band to suddenly change direction or jump on band wagons to play whatever music is considered to be cool or hip. We do what we do.

Reviews and fan's comments can contain constructive criticism. How do you deal with those? Do you take certain criticism into account when composing and/or recording new songs? Or do you follow your own ideas and intentions?

We try and read the reviews we get and listen to our fans when possible. We have a respect for what other people have to say - everyone is entitled to an opinion. If somebody doesn't like our album, we'll read what they have to say and if we think there is validity in what they're saying we'll take it onboard for the future. Most reviewers will try and state their point of view although I do get a bit confused when some reviewers review albums and they don't like the style to begin with. I often think why do they bother reviewing the album in the first place?

BLACK MAJESTY is one of Australia's biggest bands, but how known are you there? And do you (and Metal in general) get enough attention from the media?

Thanks for the nice words. We have a solid fan base in Australia as do a few other bands here in Oz. Unfortunately the metal scene is small compared to some other places in the world. It is definitely quite underground. At the same time the scene that does exist is a very passionate one. Independent radio supports metal quite a bit here but unfortunately the mainstream has never really supported Heavy Metal. It often gets swept under the carpet. Sad but true.

Several years ago you signed a deal with LMP, and since then you've released a better album every time. How has the collaboration been since then? And how much influence do they have on the band and releases?

Limb Music Products have put out all our three albums in stores worldwide and for that we're grateful. We've met the team at our label a few times now and they have been cool to work with. Limb always wants the best from his bands and he's very passionate about the albums he releases. LMP always want to hear a few samples of the demos for each album. We've never had a problem with this and infact like hearing their feedback. They've always supported what we do and any influence is welcomed.

You'll soon play (or will have played, depending when you get the questions ;-)) several important gigs on the European mainland. One of them being at Wacken Open Air. This cannot be a clearer proof that the hard work is paying off, right? How do you feel about this opportunity and do you prepare yourself in a particular way?

Our recent European tour was such a cool experience. Playing Wacken Open Air Germany, Masters of Rock Czech Republic and supporting the likes of MASTERPLAN and BLIND GUARDIAN in Slovakia was awesome. We played to the biggest crowds we've ever played to and the response was fantastic. To be able to see some of our favourite bands on this tour let alone be on the same bill as them was absolutely mind blowing!

What plans do you have (as a band or for the band) for the future? A live album? Collaboration with other musicians? An Australian Alliance tour with VANISHING POINT, LORD, PEGAZUS, ....?

As I said earlier we are really good friends with VANISHING POINT. We actually invited the boys to be part of our album launch show for "Silent Company" in Melbourne a few years back. It would also be a really cool thing to tour internationally as a package with a few other Australian bands. I really think there's a few bands in Australia that can do big things if given the chance. In terms of BLACK MAJESTY our plan is to launch the new "Tomorrowland" album Australia wide and from there maybe look at touring in places such as Japan and New Zealand. We'd also love to play some shows in America.

Black Majesty bandIs music your only occupation or do you all have daytime jobs to have a stable income?

We all work day jobs but we are very committed to the music we play. Yes we have had money in return from our label but as most musos know you have to put it back into the band to make it work for you...for instance, financing the cost of flights to be able to tour etc. I'm a casual relief Primary/Elementry School teacher, John our singer works in the labouring industry, Pavel our drummer works for Vodaphone phone company and Hanny the other guitarist works within the food industry. We all have to live so we do our jobs to be able to play the music we enjoy!

How do you spend your free time? And how much free time do you still have, since BLACK MAJESTY probably demands a lot of attention, plus any other bands you're involved in, plus jobs, ...?

I'm a huge Australian Rules Football fan so I like to support my team The Lions. Other things I like doing is drawing. I've always loved Art. Watching movies is another past time of mine - especially Marfia movies.

Stevie seems to be the only non-smoker in the band. Kudos to him for resisting. ;-) But since John is a vocalist, this will affect his singing after a while. How does he keep his voice in shape?

I often ask myself the same question. John can sing so well yet he smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. You're guess is as good as mine. In his unique way, I guess his vocal exercises must really work for him. Ha ha!

What kind of Metal bands are in your collection? And what other music do you listen to? In addition, what music do you absolutely not like and why not?

I'm a huge fan of music and a collector. My personal collection includes albums from RAINBOW's "Rising" is one of my all time favourite albums, DIO, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, QUEENSRYCHE's "Operation Mindcrime" is the best concept album ever, early DOKKEN - George Lynch is one of my fave guitar players -, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and "Back in Black" are two of my favourite all time albums, DEF LEPPARD's "Pyromania" and "Hysteria" are also high on the list, SKID ROW's Sebastian era. I guesss my taste sits between Melodic Hard Rock all the way through to Heavy/Power/Prog Metal. I'm not a fan of dance music or any type of music that is not played with real instruments.

Programmes like "Idol", "Star Academy", "X-Factor", etc... are quite popular with the masses and you sometimes can't believe how many people inscribe themselves, convinced they've got the singing talent to get that contract. Usually the winner gets to make some singles and one album (perhaps more, if all goes well). When a Metalfan participates, he mostly fails, especially when they bring a song from e.g. CANNIBAL CORPSE or NAGLFAR or any other extreme Metal band. That of course doesn't help to improve the image Metal has with the masses, but still, kudos to them for trying. In Finland however it did work: Ari Koivunen sang songs from SONATA ARCTICA, STRATOVARIUS, and other melodic Metal bands and got the contract. His album also came out recently and for this he got the help from members from the mentioned bands, incl. NIGHTWISH, THUNDERSTONE, CHILDREN OF BODOM and others. a) How do you feel about these programmes in general?

I do know of the Metal Idol you refer to. I actually liked some of his album and thought it was kind of cool he got some great names to help him with his album. This was one of the few times it worked to a headbangers advantage. Those shows normally enjoy 'mocking' metal heads and for that I can't support it. They'll often knock the kind of bands/artsts I like so why would I bother watching or support things like that?

b) How's the situation in Australia?

Australia has had a flood of all the shows you mentioned also. As I said earlier whenever someone 'metal' comes in to audition the judges are quick to slag off metal so why even bother? It's obvious the judges want a commercial pop package. They want to make there quick bucks. They definitely don't want to build up an artist. There's no way in the world they'd give a 5 album deal to an Idol. And it's exactly that, that I like about metal music. It's always cool to discover new artists. But it's also cool to see them grow with every album they release after that.

That's it for me so far. Many thanks for answering and I wish you all the best with this and future albums. Good luck with the gigs and I hope to see you on Belgian soil sometime, preferrably in a venue. ;-) Any final words are yours to add.

Thanks Tim. We really would love to include Belgium on our next tour overseas. We appreciate the support!

Metal cheers from downunder, Australia.

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