– First of all thank you so much for taking your time once again. This time we are going to walk about your new album with HELLWELL. How are you currently doing with this release about to come out?
Shark: Thanks to you for doing this interview as well. I’m really excited about this new Hellwell album coming out. It was for sure a labor of great fun and since it took about 2 or 3 years to complete I’m really looking forward to the release.
– This new record is entitled «Behind the Demon’s Eyes». Tell us a little bit what did you want to express with your music through this release, what does it deal with and the reason for such ilustration as cover artwork.
Shark: The songs on this project are all from the point of view of the perpetrators of the evil doings. We have a motto with Hellwell songs and that is “No happy endings”. As for the art that Paolo Girardi from Italy. He was the perfect choice for this album due to his dark nature with it has his art. Another reason I like to use him is because he is a traditional artist that uses oil and canvas and not computer graphics. This is an approach that I prefer.
– How was the recording process? Did you already had some clear ideas or is it a bit of a team effort?
Shark: This was pretty much all me except for the 2nd movement of the song The Last Rites of Edward Hawthorn which the main rhythm part was written by my son Ian. The rest of the music and lyrics was all my doing this time. I started having ideas for these songs right after we finished the first Hellwell release. My direction with the project intensified once Randy Foxe came on board.
– This album features six songs. I have had the chance of listening to it and it is fantastic. Are you guys pleased with the final outcome? Were there any songs that didn’t make it into the opus?
Shark: I’m extremely happy and pleased with outcome of this album. It is very epic, which we all know I love. I think the performances and songs are super cool so yes I’m very elated about this release. There were no extra songs left over. I really planned this project out very meticulously.
– Everytime I listen to MANILLA ROAD I notice certain conceptuality vibe through the songs of your albums, sometimes without being conceptual. But I notice this even more on HELLWELL. Has this album a conceptual idea or is it just my appreaction? As it always happens this to me with everything you do.
Shark: Ha ha. I take that as a high compliment because I’m always weaving topics from the past in and out of my new works giving the music over the years a sort of continuous epic feel. Sort of like the tale just keeps expanding. At the same time we touch on many subjects that are not always related but it does seem that most of what we do is very epic in nature. It is no different with Hellwell. The only concept that happens throughout the whole album is the idea of being in the Demon’s shoes from a perspective. That and the no happy ending thing ha ha. Each song is a concept of its own.
– And well, already going to the songs, and since they are only a few but really good, I would like to highlight them all and I would like you to tell us something about each of them. Let’s start with «Lightwave», a short and Heavy trck to me, were maybe the vocal have a more guttural sound (keeping the essential elements though) and where I think keyboards are really well placed. It sometimes reminds to to MANILLA’s «The Courts of Chaos» but with a more aggressive approach in my opinion. What are your thoughts on this? Tell us about this opener.
Shark: Lightwave is a song about a dimensional succubus that travels to earth on light waves and is received by our ancestors as a demon. It’s a pretty heavy song and very straightforward in it’s attitude musically.
– In «Necromantio» I notice a lof of those dark bands from the 70’s, such as BLACK WIDOW or FOCUS, specially on keyboards and your singing style, like praying to the mases. The SABBATH influence is clear in many songs, and I know you love them. Is in this kind of tunes where you somehow just let be sweapt along by your influences or does it just come out like this? And of course, what does this song mean to you?
Shark: I think it is more of a natural thing for me to let my influences color what I’m working on at any given time. I grew up listening to and loving bands like Sabbath, Purple and Heep so it is no surprise to me that those influences show up in my material. Necromantio is about the place of the same name in Greece where you could supposedly talk to the ghosts of the dead at the Gates of Hades.
– «To Serve a Man» is the first long song on the album. I take my hat off before the long songs off your discography, be it with MANILLA or HELLWELL, I think they all show an amazing structure, with all its moments and atmospheres. And as I have never asked you this; how do you manage to keep a song for this long and to turn it into a trip? Is it hard? And well, what did you want to express with this track?
Shark: It seems to be easier for me to write epic material than it is short songs. I was raised on classical orchestral music and that is another influence that seems to show up in much of my works. I seem to be able to tell the story better if I have plenty of space to tell it in. This song is about Carl Danke who was a murderer and cannibal who sold human meat to his towns residents in the guise of pickled pork. He was feeding the people other people.
– Still on the same topic about «To Serve a Man» and out of simple curiosity, I would like to highlight that cathedral-like organ sound ala Blackmore/Gillan of DEEP PURPLE in «Strange Kind of Woman». Is it un purpose or did it just happen?
Shark: Not by accident. I love the approach that Jon Lord had with the keys in Purple. And he was obviously influenced by the classics as well like Johann Sebastian Bach. That is the style that I was after with that section. A bit of a know to the Phantom of the Opera and Dr. PHIBES.
– «It’s Alive» reminds to the songs on the latest MANILLA albums, such as «Voyager» or «Gates of Fire»: harmony, beauty, Epic Doom riffs and yet again wicked keyboards. Tell us about such an epic tune.
Shark: It’s Alive was inspired by the Frankenstein tale by Mary Shelley. It’s from the perspective of Victor Frankenstein. Sort of a I told you so type of thing. Ridiculed scientist who proves his theory was correct but does it in an evil way.
– And already into the final songs, we can realise keys are essential throughout the record. Was this something you had in mind? Did you want to give the album that cathedral-like and symphonic kind of sound on purpose?
Shark: Absolutely. It has always been part of the Hellwell formula to combine cathedral-like organ with the sound of screaming guitars. It’s something I always loved about bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep.
– «The Galaxy Being» is that kind of songs that drive me crazy. They are short trips to the unknown, with aural elements as primitive as futuristic, as you always use to do in MANILLA ROAD, which I call mystical/cosmical music. How was this song burn and where are your foundations or what do you think about when it comes to this kind of tunes to give them this atmosphere?
Shark: I’ve always been into science fiction, adventure fantasy and horror themes so music and themes for the Hellwell albums comes to me fairly easily. The Galaxy Being is based on the first Outer Limits TV episode with Cliff Robertson in the lead role. It’s a really cool plot where a man’s experimentation with sonic waves and space communication accidentally brings to earth and alien that wreaks havoc upon the earth. The story itself makes it easy to come up with the atmospheres within the song. I am a firm believer that music should mimic the story that the lyrics tell. It’s not always an easy task but I do my best.
– And we end with another lengthy song, «The Last Rites of Edward Hawthorn». This one is also impressive, and I find here more melody, more melancoly and in some parts of the song there’s that guitar and keys style that made it feel like an Opera Rock. I would dare say in this song rhythmic is essential, above the vocals, giving them their space. And there’s also those magnificent choruses full of epic. What’s your opinion Mark? Has this song a special feeling?
Shark: Yes this song has a special place in my heart. Partly because my son helped me write the 2nd movement. It was really special collaborating with him. He also played guitar in that movement as well. The story line of this one is an original idea of mine that I would like to see in story form some day. Maybe I can talk E.C. into doing that. It’s a tale of a vigilante that crosses the line of sanity after some horrific events happen to him. He then becomes the doer of evil himself but pays the price. Remember no happy endings. I did treat this song and To Serve Man like classical epic pieces in most regards. That is in approach of the arrangements and sometimes the music and vocal parts. But there is still the really heavy parts that ring of Heavy metal. I just adore being able to mix and fuse different styles and genres of music together.
– And already done with the songs on the album, I would like you to describe this album in just a few words, or anything you would like to comment about it.
Shark: It’s exactly what the title implies. A look from behind the eyes of six different people or creatures that are what normal persons would consider demons. Sort of an expose of evil minds and events.
– We would also like to know what differences are or what have you experienced differently with this album compared to the HELLWELL’s debut.
Shark: Well first of all I have Randy Foxe on the drums this time so that right there really changes the make up of the sound a bit. I also feel I had a more decisive idea of how I wanted the project and songs to sound this time. I really like the first album but I do believe that Behind the Demon’s Eyes is the better of the two.
– And already on it, what does HELLWELL has that MANILLA ROAD doesn’t? In my opinion I think this band is more symphonic and darker, even though on MANILLA’s album there’s similar patterns. What do you think Mark?
Shark: I think you hit it on the money there mate. There will always be some similarities between Hellwell and Manilla Road because of me being the main music writer in both bands. That’s something I don’t worry about. I figure Hellwell is just a heavier and darker version of the Road anyway. We are more about the entertainment aspects with Hellwell where Manilla Road has always seemed to have a bit more purpose than just being entertaining.
– Concerning touring with the band, how is the situation? Are there any offers or are you busy with the upcoming MANILLA ROAD tour? If so, do yo think you could manage something in the future?
Shark: I don’t really intend on touring with Hellwell. I really have my hands pretty full with Manilla Road. My main focus will most likely always be MR because it is where it all began.
– Would you like to do a combined MANILLA ROAD/HELLWELL tour? You would be onstage around four or five hours. I would freak out.
Shark: Ha ha that would be insane man. But it could be incredibly cool also. I sort of doubt that will happen but stranger shit has happened so who knows. As long as I could rest for a month after before having to do another show he he. You know I’m not getting any younger.
– And well, before wrapping this interview up I can’t help but talking about what is going to be your Spanish tour in May. We will meet again, which is an honour to me. How are you feeling about this imminent tour? Do we treat you good?
Shark: Oh I have missed Spain ever since we left the last time. I love it there and the people are so gracious and hospitable. I can’t wait to tour there again. And yes we have been treated very good in Spain. It is an honor for us to be able to come back.
– So that’s all from our side, it’s been a pleasure to interview you again. I can clearly tell you the artist I’ve enjoyed the most doing interviews with has been with you and David DeFeis, of VIRGIN STEELE. It’s a pleasure to talk about music with individuals that feel it so deeply. Whatever Mark, see you in Barcelona on tour next May and if you want to add something else, this is your time.
Shark: I would like to thank you for doing this interview and especially would like to thank all our fans in Spain for their undying support. It is the likes of all of you that keep us going and wanting to push on. So to one and all I say Up The Hammers and Down The Nails. See you on tour.