MANILLA ROAD (EN)

– Well first of all as always before starting the interview, thank you again for the chance you are giving us of talking to you. So first off, tell us how is the band currently doing after the release of your new album, entitled «To Kill a King».
Shark: Thank you also for giving me a chance to raise my voice ha ha. Manilla Road is doing fantastic at this time. It has been a really exciting year for us. New bass player who has helped add a new spectrum on our sound live and on the new album for one thing. Also being the 40th anniversary of the inception of the band and the largest world tour that we have ever done has made this year a special one. And it seems to just get better and better for the To Kill a King album seems to be doing well and getting really good reviews. And most important of all our undying fan base seems to like it a lot. So the Road is doing very well right now and looking forward to embarking on our USA tour very soon.

 


– How was the idea of this album born? Knowing throughout these last years you have been touring to both support your prevoius album as well as in the 40th anniversary tour, have you had enough time? Are you pleased with the final outcome?
Shark: I wrote all the music for the album in about a two month period in 2015. I just concentrated on coming up with the songs for the album only and stopped work on all my other projects. So I actually had a considerable amount of time since it was all I was doing day and night. Neudi recorded the drum tracks while he was in the states for our USA tour that year. He did all the tracking without vocals on the recording. I created the lyrics over the next several months and we did the vocal tracks and perfected all the other parts as well. When Phil Ross came on board we recorded the bass parts with him and then it was another several months before I was finished with the mix. I have learned that it is better, at least in my case, to really take my time on the mixing phase of the recording process. After listening to it after you have taken a bit of a break from it always leads to changes for the better. So I take my time with it until I am sure I have done the best that I can on it. This is what I do for a living so working on writing, recording and playing music is all that I do with most of my time. I would say I had plenty of time to do the album even with all the other projects and tour going on. I always prioritize Manilla Road. That is to say Manilla Road is always my first concern when managing my musical creation time. Most of the other projects that I have going on like Hellwell and Riddlemaster or my electronic project called AI2020, have been in the works for a few years so it only looks like it all happened at once because it is all been planned to be released during the 40th anniversary year of the band. And yes I am very happy with the final outcome of all these projects and especially To Kill a King.

 
– Before starting to delve into the record, tell us a little bit broadly speaking about what is the idea or concept behind this opus, the reason for its title and again, where did the inspiration for the cover artwork come from.
Shark: The album as a whole is not especially a concept but instead many concepts with each song being a story of its own. The title cut idea came to me while I was doing an interview where I was asked some of my favorite reading material. One of my responses was Shakespeare’s MacBeth and Hamlet. It came to me then that I had done a song about MacBeth but I had not done one about Hamlet. So that is how To Kill A King was born. It quickly turned into one of my best liked songs for the project and thus becoming the title track. The idea for the cover art was mine. We actually took photos of us posing in the manner of the characters in the painting and sent them to Paolo Girardi in Italy. Then I spoke with him many times about the concept and what I was looking for. But I always give him a lot of freedom to do his own thing also like with The Blessed Curse art. He chose himself to stay a little more classical in nature for this art and I think it was a brilliant move on his part. It’s a great peice of art.

 
– Already digging into this new release, we are going to review its songs, as we use to do everytime we interview you, as you always explain them really good to our readers. The story begins with «To Kill a King», which it felt to me like a song with a lot from classical Metal, this time also with that SABBATH influence but heading more towards their heavier albums with Dio, and certain British moments a la MAIDEN. Tell us a little bit about this tune and this beginning of the opus.
Shark: You are correct about the classic metal approach to this song. It was intended that way. And the loosely based Hamlet theme was perfect for this song because of the classic nature of the story. Since it turned into the longest epic track on the album I dared to be different and make it the first track. Actually the main reason I wanted it as the first cut is because it really sort of sums up several of the moods that are presented musically within the whole album and I thought it would be a great opener. In the back of my mind I was still thinking that I would be a rebel and go against the normal equation of putting the longest song last. You know me. Always the rebel.

 

– In «Conqueror» we find the most primitive MANILLA ROAD. Rawer, with really wide instrumental spaces where you let guitars loose, which to me are the focus on this tune, no doubt. Tell us how was it born and what does this song tell.
Shark: You’re totally on point with the guitar thing. I wrote this one to have fun with on guitar. I love eastern motif structured music and scales and I wanted to have a song on the album that was in that vein. The story is of Alexander the Great. I figured that structure of scale would work well with him since he conquered a fair part of the east and middle east. The lyrics are very short compared to most of my endeavors but like I said I really meant for the song to be more of a guitar highlight than anything else.

 
– On the other hand «Never Again» is a bit astonishing due to that sirens noise at the beginning, that it seems like it was a concept in the story and period where the album seems to be inspired in. Moreover it has some Soul, Blues and I’d dare say Jazzrock nuances with a terrific atmosphere. It reminds me to songs that would fit in that so varied «Circus Maximus». Tell us how does this song fit in and what are your thoughts on the appreciations on this song, which is no doubt one of my favourites.
Shark: Considering that we just finished up with ancient history and literature stuff it is a bit of a turn to end up with air raid sirens ha ha. Like I said there is no real concept to the album as a whole but more a collection of concepts. This song is sort of another stab at reminding people that we still have a bit of a nuclear threat gong on in the world even though the Cold War is over. We said things like Hiroshima should never happen again but it seems like we are still living in a world where the threat is still very real. Just a personal observation song I guess. As for the music I would agree with you about the styles. It for sure has a bit of jazz feel and once again you know me…I love to experiment with fusing styles of music together. This song has several styles like you pointed out but to tell you the truth my favorite part of this song is the first guitar solo. This particular solo is one of my faves off this album. Reminds me a bit of the approach to the first solo on the song Beyond the Realmes of Death by Judas Priest. One of the best epic power ballads of all time there.

 

– Then «The Arena» is that accessible, easy-listening tune similar to the songs on «Crystal Logic». With verses and chorus with the band’s stamp. I always think you may come up with this kind of cuts on the spot. Tell us a bit about this track and in connection with what I was mentioning, if these songs are done smoothly.
Shark: I guess you are correct. I don’t seem to have much trouble coming up with songs like this. It’s sort of your standard heavy metal romp with the perfect theme for it. Gladiators. Hell yeah…love them gladiators. I’m always a sucker for a good barbaric story if there are swords and axes and hammers in it ha ha…and of course blood. You just can’t have a heavy metal album without slinging some metal around in the themes. You know…blades and swords and stuff…ok I’m trying to hard to be funny now…onto the next song.

 
– «In the Wake» is one of those songs I enjoy the most listening to. Keys give the whole track that mystic/cosmic vibe. It is a song with almost no tempo changes, but with that addictive ambience and that epic way of modullating your voice. If I earlier asked you about the previous song if you come up easily with that kind of tunes, this time I would like to know if when it comes to write songs such as «In the Wake» it feels harder for you to express musically what you want to achieve in order for the listener to enjoy the music. And well, tell us a little bit about this tune.
Shark: You would think that it was the long epic songs that are the hardest to come up with but in my case that is not always so. I do spend more time creating an epic natured song but they are usually longer and have more component parts than most other songs. So it’s natural that it would take a bit longer to write a song of that nature but for me it seems easier to come up with long winded ideas than the short ones. I try to put a lot of thought into all my creations but in the long run I’m usually still trying to please my own senses more than I am thinking of what everyone else wants to hear. You can’t please everyone all the time as they say and it seems to be pretty true to in my experiences. Take my voice for example. To some it’s great and to others it’s crap. So there you go. It would be pretty much impossible for me to predict what everyone wants to hear out of the Road so I just try to please my own musical senses when creating music. In other woulds I write what I would want to listen too. I love this song also. I think it is Neudi’s fave track on the album. Theme wise it is me craping on religion again like I tend to do every once in awhile. Tired of hearing people lieing to themselves about how their own greed is the will of god type of stuff. I usually don’t invole politics in my music but this is a subject I just can’t seem to ignore for some reason. In The Wake was originally written for the Riddlemaster album that I have done with Rick Fisher. Rick had not tracked the drums to this song yet when Neudi heard it in Midgard Sound Labs for the first time. He begged me to have this song on the new Manilla Road album and so Rick gave him his blessing and Neudi did the drums to it and we moved the song to the MR project instead. It was the only song that Neudi tracked that had all the parts already recorded except the drums.

 
– With «The Talisman» we have a darker song, with a really hard groove and feeling that reminds me to bands such as CELTIC FROST in a primitive state. A song more inspired by Doom and again as usual in the album, with some high quality instrumental moments. Tell us what does this song deal with.
Shark: Yeah. I can’t seem to get away from the Doom side of me. I always have to stick some Doom laiden tracks in some where ha ha. I think my vocals on this song were slightly inspired by the singer of Orange Goblin. Dude has a very cool voice. As for the topic, this song is a fantasy story line that I came up with about a magikal talisman with great powers that was hidden away in a cave deep in the earth. The story is simply about a warriors quest for this talisman. I personally think it is one of the heavier songs on the album.

 

– In line with what I was saying earlier about the instrumental moments, on «The Other Side» bass lines take the main role and lead the basis of the song, then another instrumentation with guitar, bass and drums makes every musician shine and be at ease as if they were improvisations. Apart from learning something about this song I would like to know if you have taken some more care and let more protagonism to instrumental moments on this album, as I appreciate while listening to it.
Shark: Well with Phil coming on board it has been pretty easy to let him shine on his own. He comes up with great parts that compliment what has been written. I tend to let neudi go and do his own approach with his parts most of the time also. There are songs that I have everything planned out in my head and in those cases I try and direct everyone along myself a bit. But for the most part I try and let everyone be as creative as possible and still come up with something cool. And that is always the primary goal…to come up with cool shit. As for the song The Other Side I think it displays Bryan’s voice in a little different light than what you usually hear on one of our albums. I almost always am elected to sing the spacey mellow sections but in this case Bryan did and I think it’s a great showcase song for him. As for the lyrics, they tell the story of someone who is bleesed or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with sight of the future and sight into the darker realmes of magik. He sees his own doom in his mind and is plagued with or blessed with visions that are brought to him on demon wings and haunting winds. It is about wrestling with your own sanity if you visit the worlds of beyond.

 

– In «Castle of the Devil» I find almost the same patterns of the previous song; that also really hard groove, but in an overall more thrashy track and again with really traditional lines and super Metal galloping rhythms. Tell us a little bit about this song.
Shark: This is simply a castle that I came up with in my mind after visiting so many in Europe over the last few years. I was inspired to write someithing about the torture chamber of a castle for some reason and this is what came out of me ha ha. Once again we are talking about heavy metal devices that were used in some really inventive ways to produce nothing but pain, agony and suffering. And most of the time these tortures were conducted by religious bastards or royalty that was supposedly ordained by god. Most likely just another reason to hack on religion ha ha.

 
– Bass takes the main role again in «Ghost Warrior». Another song with that enigmatic basis a lot of your tracks share. So melodic vocally as raw in its rhythmn section and again towards the end, another instrumental part with the rawness of the bass lines and the guitar melodies give to the song that kind of mystical concept. Tell us about this track and explain to us if that part of the three last mentioned songs, that even though they are different have a really clear pattern, specially by the bass, were conciously put in this order to make the album flow naturally, or if on the contrary it just happened.
Shark: I do pay a lot of attention to the flow of the songs from one to the other when we are putting the track order togther. We always have the songs in an order that we have come up with ourselves for the last many albums. Most of the time I just don’t let anyone mess with my ideas of how the music should sound or even the track orders of the releases. Has to be my way on these issues most generally. So yes I did plan for those songs to flow together like they do. I think this one is a bit of a more standard Rock song than just a Metal song. It reminds of the roots of Manilla Road for some reason. As for the theme, it is about the Ghost Warriors of Gemania back in the Roman times. They were one of the first Black Ops type of warriors in our human history. They operated with stealth and camoflauge and managed to totally defeat 3 Roman Legions in the forests of Germania. The song is a tale of that battle and the men who fought it on both sides.

 
– And we end with «Blood Island», a purely Metal song. It has an opening that in its riffs and curls reminds me to MERCYFUL FATE. To then enter into an epic mid tempo and towards the end give your all again playing with precise and traditional instrumentations. So already at this point, tell us about the end of the album. How does the story of the new MANILLA ROAD album end?
Shark: Ha ha, it ends with a song inspired by a trilogy of grade B horror movies. It is about the three Blood Island movies made back in the 60’s. My favorite is the one titled Beast of Blood. It’s good Grindhouse stuff and I thought I would make sure everyone knew that even though I’m doing a lot of heavy horror and science fiction with my Hellwell projects that it does’nt mean Manilla Road won’t do a Grindhouse song every once in awhile like normal ha ha. I just can’t keep away from the mystifying nature of horror and sci-fi. As for the music it was Bryan that told me I needed a song that started of shredding right from the start. So I ran with that and the beginning of the song ended up as you hear and it all just kept rolling out of me after that. It’s strange because sometimes I don’t even have to have a specific idea for a song in mind but instead just an attitude and then strap on the axe and wow that just came out of me? Sometimes I surprise myself with the stuff I come up with and wonder if it’s really going to sound good to anyone else but me.

 

– And generally speaking, how could you describe this record? In my opinion I see a lot of 80’s oriented Metal classicism. Bands like SABBATH with Dio, MERCYFUL FATE, MAIDEN, CELTIC FROST come to my mind, but always with the essence of MANILLA ROAD, which is what makes you one of a kind.
Shark: I agree with that for the most part. I was in that sort of 80’s mode when I wrote most of this material. Some of that might come from me working with Randy on the Hellwell album Behind the Demon’s Eyes and also working with Rick on the Riddlemaster album Bring the Magik Down. The Hellwell is already out and the Riddlemaster album will be out December first. Both of these projects are very rooted in that 80’s type of approach. Hellwell because of the Uriah Heep / Deep Purple influence and Riddlemaster becuase almost the whole project was a retro Manilla Road approach to the music. There is some progressive stuff on it but more than anything it’s like a Manilla Road album from way back when with better production. I would call that one more of a Hard Rock album than a Metal album. I also wanted To Kill A King to be somewhat different from The Blessed Curse. We sort of went overboard with the acoustic guitar stuff and the mellow spacey songs and I wanted to be a little more down to brass tacks on this one without loosing epic feel though. And I also think the production on this album is the best I have ever done with a Manilla Road album so far. I am for sure not afraid to let my influences stick out within my music. It’s all those influences together with a little bit of my own creativity that culminate into my unique style and approach to Metal Music Composition and guitar work. Wouldn’t be the same without all of them cool bands and composers before me.

 
– And on a personal level, what personal experiences contain this record? As we know sometimes some of your previous records had certain connotations to ancestors. Does this happen with any song on the new album?
Shark: Nope, sorry. I’m not related to William Shakespeare ha ha. No real personal relationships in this one but more personal philosophy in a few of the songs. This album for the most part was meant to be good solid Metal entertainment.

 

– After the release of the album I guess you’ll be back on the road. Are there any touring or festival plans for this year and the next one?
Shark: We are getting ready for our USA tour right now. This will be the last leg of our 40th anniversary world tour. We will be out the whole month of October this year touring the states. We have alredy done an extensive tour of Erurope this year. For 2018 we will be doing at least 2 big festivals in Europe that I know of but I’m not sure if we are supposed to announce yet so I best not say which ones at this time. We will be doing more touring in Europe of course and we plan on returning to Poland since we finally broke into the touring market their this year. I’m sure we will be touring in the USA again also and hopefully Canada. We wanted to get their this tour but it just didn’t work out for Canada or South America time wise for us this year. We are expanding our touring every year doing more and more. I’m sure we will try and keep that up in the future as it seems the demand for Manilla Road live is still growing all over. But I also want to make sure we have enough time to work on another new album for Manilla Road as well. Right now I don’t have any other projects in the works that have not already been recorded and mastered with art all done. So my next project will be the next Manilla Road album. I already have one song for it but I don’t really write much when we are on tour so I have sort of stopped thinking about the new album until we are finished with this years touring. I will spend the winter writing the next opus. I think I feel a concept brewing.

 

– And of course I would like to ask you about your shows in Spain. Again we were lucky enough to see you this year. What were your feelings this second time in Barcelona and the rest of the shows on the 40th anniversary? Do you have in mind coming back?
Shark: We love touring in Spain. Your eating schedule is a bit different than what we are used too ha ha. We love the country and the people and of course we want to come back. Where else can you get olives like that. That’s correct…nowhere else. My humor is terrible tonight ha ha. We had a blast in Spain and Barcelona was fun for us along with all the other shows we have ever done in Spain. I’m sure we shall return as soon as we can.

 
– On a view to the future, do you already have something in mind? When can we expect a live album? As since «Live Roadkill» you haven’t released any live material. A 3CD with an epic presentation would be cool, isn’t that possible? Has that been offered or your focus is now on studio material?
Shark: I’m still sort of focusing on studio stuff but we have been talking about another live album for the near future. We shall see. Who knows, we might decide to try and record a number of our shows live next year while on tour. It has not been something we have been burning the midnight oil over though so I’m not making any promises. But I do think I have one of the very best lineups that Manilla Road has ever had right now and a new live album would be something now that I have a crew that can play almost any song that the band has ever done. I’ll think harder on it now that you have brought it up. You’re not the first to mention this.

 

– Before wrapping this interview I up, just mention I always get so lost on the interview and on listening to the album that I always forget about one question: where does the name of MANILLA ROAD come from and why that name for the band?
Shark: The original drummer, Ben Munkirs, and I were getting drunk on beer, smoking weed and watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus on a small black and whilte tv in his kitchen when we came up with the name. I think it was the combination of those three things that inspired us to come up with a name that only had meaning to us at the time. I think we thought it was like saying the road of light but for the most part I think we were just really blasted ha ha.

 
– That’s all from our side, as always it has been a real pleasure to interview you, to read your interesting answers and to appreciate the love you feel for music. I wish to see you again next year. Thank you for all and if you want to leave a message for your Spanish fans, here’s your place.
Shark: I just want to thank all of you who support Manilla Road and keep the Metal fires burning in your hearts. It really is about the brotherhood of Metal and the love of music. Music can be the only thing that soothes the wild beast in all of us. For me…without music I would be lost. And it is because of all of you and your undying support that has made it so I can continue to weave my musical spells. Thank you all for the chance to go on. For it is truly your inspiration that leads us always to the next album and tour. Up The Hammers & Down The Fucking Nails. May The Lords of Light Be With You All. Cheers.

 

Paco Gómez
paco@queensofsteel.com

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