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28/11/2007 – Interview with ROAD TO RUIN/LION'S SHARE

On the 3rd of October I received a request from LION'S SHARE (official website) guitarist/songwriter Lars Chriss to do an interview regarding his band. The fact that he and bassist Sampo also started a new band, ROAD TO RUIN (official website), was an extra reason to go for it. Both releases, rspectively "Emotional Coma" and "Road To Ruin" have already been reviewed by me at this and this location. LION'S SHARE's newest release came out in June, while the debut of ROAD TO RUIN little more than one month ago, i.e. in October.

LION'S SHARE is catalogued under Heavy/Power Metal, yet for ROAD TO RUIN they opted for Hard Rock in vein of the older masters: RAINBOW, THIN LIZZY, BLACK SABBATH, WHITESNAKE, ... since this is also the music Lars and Sampo grew up with. Needless to say ROAD TO RUIN is a nice addition to your collection if you like these bands.

I sent Lars the questions a few weeks ago and got them back yesterday (28/11). I had to focus on both his bands, so first you'll get the ROAD TO RUIN related Q&As, then the LION'S SHARE ones. Enjoy and do check out both bands' albums, for you can't really go wrong with them.

Road To Ruin logo

First of all, congratulations with your first ROAD TO RUIN album. Had you not contacted me, chances would have been less big that I would check it out, although I'd probably do eventually. As you've read in the review, I'm quite satisfied with the result. Since you had a busy time, see also LION'S SHARE, how satisfied are you with the final result?

2007 has been a great year for me, so far, with two amazing releases on the market. I feel very privileged to be a member of two such great lineups and bands.

Road To Ruin bandIt seems te ROAD TO RUIN project is an idea of bassist Sampo Axelsson, as he had some material in mind that didn't fit LION'S SHARE's Metal path. I did have the idea that RTR was mainly your new baby. But in short: RTR would never have come to existance without Sampo's input. Or would you eventually have done something like this?

When Sampo joined LION'S SHARE and we started writing together, we came up with some stuff that didn't fit the Heavy Metal direction of "Emotional Coma", but we both thought it was great stuff that deserved to be released, so we came up with the idea of doing a side project and a full album of songs in the style of RAINBOW, WHITESNAKE, THIN LIZZY etc. Many think the RIIR album sounds like LION'S SHARE did in the beginning, so I suppose this kind of music always had a big influence on me. However, I had, during the break I took after the "Entrance" album, decided that LS should only feature my Heavy Metal influences, since even though it's great to have many different influences, it's not always wise to release them under the same umbrella. I think some of the old LS albums were a bit too diverse, covering too many bases and that from now on I should release those different influences as side projects instead.

Is RTR just a side-project or a real band, with which you plan to go further than just an album now and then?

It all depends on the reactions. It started out like a fun thing and as an outlet for these songs, but the album turned out so great, even better than we could imagine. If the fans and label want another record, I'm sure we will do it.

Sampo and you were the main songwriters, but did/do the others also have a percentage in the songwriting? Or was everything already done and the others just had to add their parts?

Sampo and I wrote the music to all songs. Then Matti Alfonzetti joined and wrote all lyrics and vocal melodies. We have 33,33% each on every song.

I read that the album was to be released before LION'S SHARE's newest, "Emotional Coma". This means then also that the material was ready before that of "Emotional Coma", right? Or did you work on both albums at the same time?

"RIIR" was written at the same time, but recorded and signed before LION'S SHARE besides Matti's vocals. Matti started recording his vocals end of 2006, but around this time LS signed to AFM and went into the studio plus Matti had to produce the new POODLES album, so Metal Heaven was kind enough to let us bump the album to the Fall so it wouldn't come out at the same time as LS. We finalized and mixed it this summer.

When and where did you record the album? Who was responsable for the production, mixing and mastering?

We did everything except the mastering ourselves. A couple of years ago I produced and mixed an album called "Audiovision", so we knew we would be able to do it ourselves and that it would sound similar to that album which I got a lot of praise for.

Road To Ruin - Road To RuinThe cover art is very clear regarding the album title: it's practically a war zone, everything is destroyed. Are those dice the tool to freedom or total ruin? And is there a connection with the songs?

The cover artist made it based on our band name. He had the idea about the dices and the logo on them. If you throw them and the logo is up - I guess you're in trouble. Haha.

Speaking of the songs: which themes have been tackled?

I've never been very interested in lyrics so I'm probably the worst person to ask. For LION'S SHARE we did a "track by track" thing which is useful for me when journalists ask about the lyrics. Maybe we should have done one for RIIR as well...

For ROAD TO RUIN you chose to work with Metal Heaven. How did this deal come about? And is it because Metal Heaven has more experience with Hard Rock bands, whereas AFM is more of a Metal label?

Metal Heaven approached me at a big music business convention called PopKomm in Berlin about signing LION'S SHARE. I told them I wanted to finish the LS album before I shopped it, but mentioned I was working on the RIIR project, so RIIR was actually signed and supposed to be released before LS. Metal Heaven have a lot of experience with this kind of music and the owner is a great guy, so it felt totally cool to sign with them. I think it's positive to have the bands on different labels, since they have slightly different distribution and promotion channels which both bands benefit from.

Do you have leftovers that will be used (entirally, partially) for the next album? Or do you prefer to have a fixed number of songs and have a fresh start each time?

We have no leftovers for RIIR. We have a bonus track for Japan, but that's all.

Any tourplans for RTR?

Not at this point. If there's a demand and we get a good tour offer, it wouldn't be too hard for us to get together and rehearse, since we all live in the same city. Too much work for a one off show, though, in my opinion.

The music you make with RTR is inspired by bands like RAINBOW, THIN LIZZY, DIO, some BLACK SABBATH, and alike. This is the kind of music you grew up with, as mentioned in the press release and in interviews. What attracts you nowadays / attracted you in the past about Hard Rock (and later Metal)?

KISS started it all for me. I was 8 and my whole life changed. Overall I like well played, well produced stuff with great melodies. I like AOR like FOREIGNER, BAD ENGLISH, RICK SPRINGFIELD. Progressive stuff like RUSH, YES, QUEENSRYCHE, DREAM THEATER, AYREON. POP that has catchy and great melodies. Old school Heavy Metal like JUDAS PRIEST, ACCEPT, BLACK SABBATH, SAXON, MEGADETH. Hard Rock like WHITESNAKE, RAINBOW, DIO, DEF LEPPARD, SCORPIONS, MSG and also some brutal Metal stuff like ARCH ENEMY and SOILWORK. My favourite guitar players are Gary Moore, George Lynch, Michael Schenker, Uli John Roth and Marty Friedman.

Lion's Share logo

Besides RTR you have another band that requires your attention even more: LION'S SHARE. Going back in time: how would you compare the three labels you've been on so far (Century Media, Massacre Records, AFM Records) on every comparable level?

Yes, LION'S SHARE is my main band and first priority. I had kept my eyes on AFM for a couple of years and figured this would be the perfect label for our kind of Metal and our forthcoming comeback album. Fortunately the A&R Markus and I have a common friend, so when we were more or less finished with the album, he just asked if AFM would be interested, and luckily they were! This was great for us, since we didn't have to send out any demos or anything to any other labels. I've met the guys at AFM a couple of times and it feels like I've known them for years. Real cool vibe, like a big happy family.

Lion's Share bandSame thing for the albums. Which evolution is there and how satisfied are you today with what you did back then? Plus, if you could re-write them, would you change something or leave it as much as they were at that time, for the sake of seeing a line in how you developped your skills and whatever more?

I like most songs on the old albums. The album I like the least is "Two" which I think got a bit too progressive and that the vocal melodies aren't as great as on the other albums. Looking back I would get rid of some progressive parts and delete some keyboards. I don't think my way of writing has changed that much, if I only look at my parts. If you just focus on the riffs and vocal melodies on vers/bridge/chorus/solo on those early records, you'll see that it's pretty much the same influences as on "Emotional Coma". My riffs sound like a mix of BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST and MEGADETH. I always try to come up with a catchy vocal melody on top of this with a great hook. In the past we wrote instrumental progressive stuff in between and I think this plus the fact that we used a lot of keyboards and big backing vocals is the biggest difference.

On "Emotional Coma" there are a few guests, like Glen Drover and Bruce Kulick. Was this something you had in mind when you started writing the material or was it only when you were in the studio that you thought it would be nice to have them on the album?

It wasn't planned at all. I've known Glen for a couple of years after working with his other band besides MEGADETH, called EIDOLON. I asked if he could do a guest solo and he agreed. The studio where we did most of the demos was co owned by the former KISS Army president of Sweden, so when Bruce Kulick was in Stockholm to do a KISS Expo he suggested we invite Bruce to the studio to do a guest solo. I'm a KISS fan since I was 8, so of course I wanted a KISS member on my record. KISS were the reason I started playing guitar and will always have a special place in my heart.

In addition, how important are guest appearances for you? (leaving the marketing philosophy aside)

It was a cool thing when the opportunity appeared and the first time we did something like this. Hopefully some KISS and MEGADETH fans will discover LION'S SHARE because of them, but the main reason for including them on the album was they both did a great job and are very nice persons.

Before "Emotional Coma" you took a break of 6 years, apparently because your muse had left you, so to speak. Titling the album "Emotional Coma" then makes more sense. Do the songs deal with that break or did you also add some socio political issues?

Patrik wrote all lyrics so I don't think it had anything to do with me feeling burnt out and tired of the music business actually. You've got a point though. Especially when my side project is named ROAD TO RUIN as well Haha. We obviously had to name the album so we took a look at all the song titles and picked the one we thought fitted the best. This is always the hardest part for us when making an album. To name it! That's probably why the first two albums are called "Lion's Share" and "Two".

The album came out as a digipack as well, containing a bonus track ("Ring Of Stupidity") and the video for "The Edge Of The Razor". Whose decision was it to add these two as a bonus and what is "Ring Of Stupidity" about?

It was our label AFM that suggested this. We recorded it as a Japanese bonus track.

Lion's Share - Emotional comaWho or what is the creature on the cover? What does he represent?

We were just looking for a mascot figure like IRON MAIDEN's Eddie that we can include on future covers as well and on shirts and other merchandise. We have this huge backdrop live with the image, plus posters and shirts and are very pleased with the way the cover turned out.

Is there a big difference in writing songs for RTR and LS? Do you work differently?

Yeah I would say so. With LS we try to develop our trademark sound and style that the fans have gotten used to and expect from us. We turn every rock to come up with something clever and ultimate. Everything is analyzed, taken apart and put back together again. RIIR was more a tribute to our heroes and since it's a debut, we had no expectations to be limited by either. RIIR was simply us having fun and it was written and recorded it very fast compared to LS.

Like I asked about RTR, can everyone come up with ideas in LS? Or is everything done already? Or are you and maybe Sampo the final decision makers?

We are 100% a band. All three members contribute with ideas and take part in all decisions. The best ideas will end up on the album, no matter who comes up with them.

You've got Nils Patrik Johansson on vocals. He's very busy, considering he also sings in ASTRAL DOORS and WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Did you take this into account when asking him to join LS? Plus, does he have any input regarding the lyrics or perhaps the music?

Patrik writes all lyrics and some vocal melodies. He's 50% in LS and 50% in AD, everything else he did as a hired studio musician. Read his personal statement about it here Today most musicians are involved in several different projects, so we don't see this as a major problem. I mean both Sampo and I are in ROAD TO RUIN as well.

Any songs or ideas ready for the follow-up to "Emotional Coma"?

We have recently started writing for the next LS album, since both we and our label AFM wants another album pretty fast to establish the comeback. If everything goes as planned, the next release will be on October 3rd 2008.

Lion's Share bandNowadays internet is very important for bands and sites like MySpace are only one tool to promote your music. How valuable is it for you and has there been a positive impact on sales?

We have almost 11 000 friends listed at our MySpace and have gotten many new fans after they've discovered us there. I'm getting a lot of interview and business requests directly via our official site - - and we have a fan club - - that's run by a long time fan, so the internet is very important to us.

Speaking of sales, if you have (had) a view on this: which was the best selling LS album so far? Also, how well is "Emotional Coma" doing and in which region is it selling the most?

"Emotional Coma" is only out in Europe and Japan since two weeks so far. On January 29 it will be out in North America on Locomotive, followed by Russia and South America, so we don't know what our best market is yet. So far we have sold approx 100 000 records together, but it's hard to sell big numbers these days with all the illegal downloading.

Any plans to re-record older songs or perhaps re-release the previous albums?

AFM want us to re record some older songs for a "best of" and then release the original back catalogue. Right now I'm too busy making our next album so this will have to wait. We have two songs on the new MANOWAR dvd "Magic Circle Festival 2007", though, for fans that want something new to check out. It was recorded at our show at MCF in July. It's a very cool double dvd with a lot of "behind the scenes" stuff!!

Speaking of illegal downloading, I know you condemn this for the obvious reasons and I fully agree with you. But what I find strange is that a lot of albums are already downloadable months before the release, which makes you think who's the culprit here: journalists/reviewers? People at the labels? Promoters? Some labels try to avoid this by shortening the songs on the promos or spreading them over several tracks or quite simply put a Flash-player online and based on that a review is to be made. What would be, in your opinion, a good solution to prevent albums being downloadable weeks or months before the release?

This is a MAJOR problem for sure! I'm pretty sure it's the journalists/reviewers that post it in the first place. Remember, it only takes one bad person and it's all over the net within hours. I have no solution to this, unfortunately. Maybe if the whole business changes so the reviews and stuff will get delayed 'till after the release dates? This way at least it won't be spread illegally before honest fans get a chance to get it the legal way. I totally understand that fans of a band have a hard time not to grab the album illegally when it's not available in the stores at that point. Since stuff is leaked 2-3 months before it hit the stores, I'm sure some fans even have grown tired listening to it even before the street date. What people don't think about is that if the labels don't earn any money, the recording budget for bands will be lower as well which leads to shitty sounding albums in the end.

When you're in need of a break or when you're just not inspired to write/compose anything, how do you fill your time?

I'm a big Ice Hockey fan so I watch a lot of games on TV during the season.

Final question: ears are very important when making music. Live or in the studio, you can't work without them. I have to listen to many albums to review them and try to avoid turning up the volume when wearing headphones, at home or in the train. Also, when I see many wearing earplugs from their iPods or similar and the volume being so high an entire train wagon can hear it, I wonder how long those people's hearing will last. But the biggest reason for this cause is gigs: last Saturday (03/11) all went well when I stood close to the stage, in the middle, and I could listen via the stage speakers. When RAGE came on, I only could hold it for two songs as Victor's guitar was extremely loud and the drums could not be heard. The more I stepped back, the better the sound was, but still... many stood in the front or close to side speakers and I've been in that last situation many times. Every time my ears peep after the gig and so for 1-2 days until all is well again. Ok, time to get to the point: have you noticed an impact on your hearing since you started making music? And how do you deal with sound volumes? How careful are you about this in the studio (headphones, for example) and on stage?

I use ear protection at rehearsals, but not on stage or in the studio, because I need to hear the high end properly to be able to play good and bend in pitch. Of course everybody should protect themselves and be careful. How could I say something else?

I'm out of questions now. Many thanks for replying and good luck with whatever's on your way.

My pleasure, Tim! Thanks for supporting LION'S SHARE and ROAD TO RUIN.

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