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Lion's Share: The Climate is better than ever for pure Heavy Metal

Interview with composer/guitarist Lars Chriss in March 2009 by Vera

The history of Swedish Lion’s Share goes back until 1995 when they released their debut album. It was mainly the sophomore CD ‘Two’ that got them recognition in the melodic metal scene. After the release of 2001’s ‘Entrance’ mastermind Lars Chriss took a break from the scene to recharge the batteries. His return with a new constellation of Lion’s Share in 2007 was a blast. No more keyboards or harmony vocals, but a straight approach of energetic heavy metal. ‘Emotional Coma’ includes vocals of Dioesque vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson (Astral Doors, Wuthering Heights) and was a top notch release in classical heavy metal style. ‘Dark Hours’ – the newest album – continues their resurrection with excellent guitar skills, epic tinge, heaviness and vintage feel. Time to talk with the born again moving spirit of the band: Lars Chriss!

When ‘Emotional Coma’ came out in 2007 it was a new start for Lion’s Share, with new members. How was the reception of the CD?
It was very good actually. The times for releasing an album like that are better now. When we released our first album in 1995 we stood out a bit, because we did the classical stuff inspired by Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Queensryche and bands like that. Around us was grunge and hiphop. The overall climate for this kind of music is better, even though we were very satisfied with that album. It did well for us. We have a lot of good festivals in Europe that are sold out every year now.

Did you tour to support the album?
Yes, we played a lot in Sweden and we also did a festival in Holland with Royal Hunt. We played Magic Circle festival with Manowar in Germany in 2007. We have two songs on their DVD. It was a special event for me. And we knew them from before, because we did an arena tour for a month supporting Dio, Manowar and Motörhead. We know these bands and the Manowar guys have always been very cool to us, so that’s probably why we got invited to their festival. They already knew us and they liked our music and my playing. It is strange we haven’t toured in Europe that much. We have toured with Saxon twice, with U.D.O., with Dee Schnider, Iced Earth and Nevermore, but most of the tours have been in Scandinavia. We’d love to play all over Europe. Actually we got an offer to tour with Iced Earth and Saxon in February this year, but we could not do it. The offer came so close to the first show, we were not prepared. We hadn’t rehearsed new songs, we didn’t have the merchandise. That was a pity because it would have been a perfect tour for us I think.

When did you start writing the songs for the new album ‘Dark Hours’? And did you do it by yourself or was it more a band effort?
When Patrik (Johansson – vocals) joined the band around ‘Emotional Coma’, I had some songs, but we felt immediately that the chemistry was so great between us. So I think we had 23 songs for ‘Emotional Coma’. Actually some of them ended up on this album. Like ‘The Bottomless Pit’ we had, ‘Behind The Curtain’. Basically we looked at the reactions on ‘Emotional Coma’ and picked out the songs that people liked the best and which songs worked best live and we just started from there. We had a good response on the song called ‘Trafficking’, because the chorus had layers of guitars in the background. We did that now on ‘Barker Ranch’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket’. I would say maybe ‘Napalm Nights’ has any affinity with ‘Soultaker’ from the previous album. We usually have a couple of heavy ones, this time ‘Heavy Cross To Bear’ and ‘Behind The Curtain’. Overall we discussed and decided to write a few more up-tempo songs, because metal fans seem to like that better. We also decided to make the vocal choruses even more direct; people should like it from the first spin. Many people told me that ‘Emotional Coma’ took three or four times before they got the album and really liked it. We wanted to be a bit more direct. We also wanted to upgrade the sound, that’s why we worked with a new engineer Jens Bogren.

Yes, the famous guy from Fascination Street Studio!
Exactly. We listened to the latest Symphony X album ‘Paradise Lost’ and we were totally blown away by the production. Of course we looked up who did it and it appeared to be a Swedish guy! That was perfect!

You said in a former interview that the hardest part when making a record is coming up with a title. This time it is not a song…
(laughs) No, all lyrics are about the big events that happened in the late sixties. Of course we wanted a title and a cover that could reflect that. We played around with “decade” and stuff like that. But then we came up with “Dark Hours” because it is mainly the darker side of the sixties we are writing about.

But the sixties were a rather hopeful time for everyone in Europe I think…
(laughs) Yeah, but Patrik decided to write about the negative sides. The killing of Martin Luther King, three songs are about Charles Manson, and so on. I think he got influenced when he was reading a book about Charles Manson and that’s where it started. We were in the studio and we had recorded most of the songs when it was in the biggest newsmagazine in Sweden that they went back to Charles Manson’s Ranch because they thought they would discover more bodies. We already had a few songs about him: ‘The Bottomless Pit’ and ‘Phantom Rider’ but then we wrote ‘Barker Ranch’ too. The song ‘Presidio 27’ deals with another happening in 1968. There was a strike of prisoners and a prisoner got killed at the Presidio in San Francisco. 27 Prisoners were pissed off and started mutiny. ‘Behind The Curtains’ is about the cold war when the Russian tanks rolled through Prague. ‘Space Scam’ is about the moon landing. Some people say it was not real and only set up by the United States. Most of the lyrics are situated in the period 1967-1969.

The previous record was on AFM Records, now you have started your own label, Blistering Records…
Yes, I have been in the business for a long time and two guys that work at the stock exchange business wanted to start a new record label and they called me and asked me to be the president. I use my contacts and my experience since I have been releasing Lion’s Share albums with many different distributors and labels and also some side projects like Road To Ruin was on another label. So I had a pretty good picture of the set up and the contacts. We started out by releasing 16 albums in the USA, October and November 2008. Now we have the set up for Europe as well. Lion’s Share and Covered Call are the first releases; pretty soon we’ll have Bloodbound.

That’s promising! With Urban Breed of Tad Morose…
Yes exactly. We signed Lilian Axe, Saidian and some other bands. We have good stuff coming. It is a real tough time to start a new label, but we did not know that. Okay we knew it was hard for the record business, but then the economical crisis came…

What struck me is that you always have that big, warm nearly vintage sound on the albums, even now with Jens Bogren as producer…
I produced all Lion’s Share albums before this one and I have a very strong opinion about how a Lion’s Share album should sound. I just need some fresh blood and some new ideas, but of course we told Jens what we did not like about sound and production. It was teamwork, we are really happy with the production. It sounds updated but still warm and traditional. I think we combined the two.

There is a guest on the album and a stunning one: Michael Romeo from Symphony X. How did you manage to do this?
We are fans of Symphony X and our American manager is friends with Symphony X. He simply asked Michael if he wanted to do a guest solo and he did. We did not pay him or anything; it was a very cool thing from him to do. You hear him in ‘Behind The Curtain’, the last song.

Did you do some recordings in your studio too?
Yeah we had good studio equipment. For ‘Emotional Coma’ we recorded the vocals, bass, keyboards and guitars in our studio and we did the drums and the mix in another studio. That’s exactly how we did this one too. We recorded the drums with another guy in Studio Mega in Varsby, in the south of Sweden. Actually three studios if you count the mix.

How long did the whole process take?
It was a bit spread out. I think I recorded the guitars last spring and some of the vocals were done February, March. We did the drums in April. We went on a club tour and had a break and some festivals, we were back at the end of the summer and did some more vocals, the bass and the guitar solos came last in the fall.

Can you tell something about the videoclip and the song ‘Judas Must Die’?
When we had recorded the album we wanted to find out what people thought about it, what song they liked the best. When you are so close to the material it is hard to judge. We did a few listening sessions with the fanclub and also with some younger kids and that was the most popular song. So we decided to open the album with it and make a video. The video is directed by the same guy who did ‘The edge of the Razor’ from ‘Emotional Coma’. We play in front of a green screen and there’s all the movie scripts in black and white from the sixties. We did it in Stockholm. We wanted to include it on the limited edition digipak as a bonus, but we were not 100% done, so there is a slightly different video on the digipak than the one that’s going to be sent to the TV stations. In addition there is another audio bonus track ‘King Of All The Kings’ and a documentary about the recording sessions behind the scenes on the digipak.

How did you ever get into music? What are your roots as musician?
Kiss. They were the reason I started playing. I think I was eight years old when I heard them. The time of ‘Love Gun’.

They are still huge, headlining many festivals…
Yeah they played at the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm last summer.

But you have seen Sweden Rock Festival when it was small…
We played there for the first time in 1999. I think it was around 11.000 people, now it is 30.000. Yes, I have seen it grow; we played there in 2001 and 2007 again. It is very big now.

There are two session drummers on the record now…
We are only three persons, so we needed a drummer. We hired Conny Pettersson, who was recommended to us by Jens Bogren. He plays in a metal band called Anata. They are signed to Earache. On the bonus track ‘King Of All The Kings’ we have Richard Evensand. That song was recorded, at least the drums, during the ‘Emotional Coma’ sessions because Richard had moved to Australia now.

What are you going to do in a live situation?
We have a good friend Stefan Norgren who plays on the Manowar DVD. He has been doing all the live shows for ‘Emotional Coma’ and he is playing with us live now as well. It is the drummer in all the videos too, but he hasn’t made an album with us yet. It is a bit complicated.

I see that the album will be released in Japan too. What are the expectations over there?
We have one of the best labels over there, called King Records. It is going to be out at the end of April. We have done an interview for the biggest magazine Burrn. It is looking good. We are going to send the video and see what they can do. The first album was released there too. Hopefully there will be some fans waiting for it. We are planning to re-release the whole back catalogue also in the USA. They are back with me, change the covers and add bonus material.

The band will do some gigs in Sweden pretty soon and after that they hope for a good offer to tour with another band through Europe.

Geplaatst door Vera op vrijdag 03 april 2009 - 10:47:15
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