Steel Attack Guitarist John Allan
By: Anders Sandvall
Here is an interview with John Allan guitar player from the Swedish band Steel Attack. In October they released their album ENSLAVED and I took the opportunity to ask John about the album, the band, plus other questions in general. Due to some difficulties with finding a member that was available to answer my questions (because of touring and the Christmas holidays) the interview couldn?t be done by until now.
Would you please like to tell the readers a bit about Steel Attack?
Okay, Steel Attack started out as a band back in 1995 but with the name Mayer?s Eve and with the only members from that time to what became Steel Attack was Dennis Westman, Steve Steel and in 1997 the line up changed and so did the name to Steel Attack and Andreas de Vera joined the band as the drummer and Steve took over the bass and the lead vocal parts and in may 1998 I (John) joined the band and in July we also signed for AFM records, we went on the first tour with Edguy in the end of 1998 without a album out, so the first album Where Mankind Fails was released in June 1999, and the second and last one we did on AFM records was the Fall into Madness album 2001 also in June. So in the mean time we had a change in the line up with Steve leaving the band to focus fulltime for Carnal Forge and then we needed a lead vocalist as well as a bass player. So before Steve left the band we had Dick as the lead vocalist and short after we had to get a bass player and that was Patrick Sp?th. In the end of 2001 Andreas de Vera also decided to quit playing the drums so we did some auditions and got hold of Mike Stark. We also left AFM records due to some real problems with the co work and then we got the demo away and finally signed for Arise Metal in the middle of 2002 and we released the Predator of the Empire 2003 in May with the line up Dick Johnson Vocal, John guitar, Dennis guitar, Patrick Sp?th bass and back vocal and Mike Stark on drums. Next thing that happened to the band was that Dick was not really into the band and finally in the end of 2003 we decided to get a new lead vocalist for the band and with great connections with LG from the band The Storyteller we got hold of Ronny Hemlin and he got to be permanent of course, and then we decided to move up the level with rehearsals etc then, Patrick decided to leave the band because he said its for the bands best and just when he said that then Dennis decided to leave as well, because he was to tired of changes in the line up and would not go for more auditions with a new bass player. So there we where I, Ronny and Mike, and maybe just a couple of minutes after that the door was closed and Dennis and Patrick where no longer in the band then we called up Johan Jalonen on guitar a old friend to me that I use to play with from time to time and also played with before Steel Attack, and for bass we got Andreas “Anden” Andersson who had played with Ronny several years back. And in the middle of April 2004 we entered the studio and recorded the album Enslaved. The band work together better than it ever has, so next step now is just to play live as much as possible and make more songs etc.
You have had a few member changes during the years, how many members have come and gone?
Since the year 1997 when the band got the name Steel Attack we had, Andreas de Vera on drums, Steve Steel lead vocal and bass, Roger Raw on drums, Dick Johnson lead vocal, Dennis Westman on guitar and Patrick Sp?th bass that been in the band. Andreas de Vera was the only one that had been away and back again and away again. That make it 6 in total.
How many guys today are original members?
Just me that are one of the original since the first album Where Mankind Fails.
Why has it been so hard to keep a steady line up?
They all left because they had no time for the band, or either quit playing music.
You come from Sala in Sweden, where is Sala located?
Sala, hmm, describe that on the map is not the easiest, it?s just a small town with a population around 20 000 people in total and it?s an hour drive away from Stockholm.
You have released three albums prior this one, how was the earlier albums greeted by the press?
The first two was in a way described as a band with a unique lead singer, in the way that Steve sung. And the third one was with Dick on lead vocals and it was getting more response due to the fact that he was in the majority of the reviews a much better singer. I think all albums got both great and less “points” in the reviews. And a review is just that persons who did the reviews own point of view to the music. So the best way to judge an album is to use your own ears.
Which one of the previous album has sold the most copies?
From the first three albums I must say Predator of the Empire due to the fact that we never got any info regarding the sales etc with AFM, which was the main reason that we left them.
On which label are the previous albums released?
Where Mankind Fails 1999, AFM. Fall into Madness 2001, AFM. Predator of the Empire 2003, Arise Metal.
You are now on a new label, Arise Records, how is it to work with them?
So far everything been just fine so its good.
What are the differences between Arise and your old label?
Everything from the fast response with answers by email, the ease to get hold of in need of, and the co work is on another level.
Have you done a lot of touring? If so have you been out as a headline or as a support act?
Sadly not, and for the tour it?s been as support and for single gigs it?s been both support even though the majority of the single gigs been as headline. But no we got a great work with a new booking agency SSG
www.ssg.fi in Finland so we are really looking forward to get a lot of gigs now.
Why the name Steel Attack? Does it mean anything special to you?
The name came from Dennis I think, who was fooling around with different names and finally the name Steel = Metal and Attack = the sound got born.
How was it to write and record “ENSLAVED”?
Since we where so short on time and we where a new band with the new members, we just collected all the different ideas all of the members got on any kind of recorded media and sorted out all parts that could work as either a verse, chorus, intro, etc and then we put the parts together and just made new ones that would work better as bridge, rhythms for the lead parts and in the studio after the lead vocals and the choir vocal parts where done we started with the melody guitars since we didn?t knew at that time how the vocal lines was, since we only rehearsed the songs Enslaved and Son of a Thousand Souls before enter the studio. So I must say it was a great experience to work in this kind of way and it will probably be so with several songs for the next album. Since we all collect parts that we got on any kind of recording equipment we got to hand at our homes etc.
The info note says that the lyrics is about religion from different angles and points of view…would you like to tell us some more about the lyrics?
The lyrics throughout the album are about religions in different angles and point of views mostly relating to the illogical sides and the ones with big question marks, such as:
“No matter what evil deed you do, it is all right if you do it in the name of God“
Who has written the lyrics on “ENSLAVED”?
Most of it is done by Ronny, since he are the singer and handle the words with his voice so that is the best way to let him do most of it when it comes to the final touch to the lyrics, but we all add ideas and lines and gave ideas to the songs.
How does it work when you write the material in the band? Who usually does what?
We all contribute with ideas, either if it is just short parts or if it is more complete ideas, but the main thing is that we write the songs together as a team.
I understand that you have switched studios this time, instead of using your old studio Underground you have recorded the album in Black Lounge Studio, how come?
We decided to change the studio, to even more state that we are a “new” band and of course to get another sound to the recording.
In the booklet it says that you have recorded the album in only Black Lounge Studio but if you read the info note it says that you have used several studios, what is correct?
Only Black Lounge Studio for the recording and the final mix and for the mastering we used the great Peter in de Betou at his own studio.
Who have produced the album?
How long has it taken to record it?
Have you read any reviews of the album yet? What has the media to say about it?
There been really great reviews and we are very satisfied with them. All reviews agree on one thing and that is that we got our own sound and we got the best album out so far from the band
In the info note you say that you don?t want your new album to be compared to your earlier efforts and that “ENSLAVED” are your best album so far, how do you comment that now?
Listen to them all and hear for your self what we mean with that, the line up now are at the best the band has been over all years so it got another sound to the final songs.
Why have you chosen to title the album “ENSLAVED”?
It all goes along with the lyrics and the view to the crazy world of enslaved people.
What are the though behind the cover? Are you satisfied with it?
The thought behind it is also a reflection of the lyrics, and yes we are very satisfied with the cover.
Who has done the cover?
Do you have any favorite track on the album?
They change from time to time so I must say I enjoy both listening and playing them all.
Do you feel that you should have done anything different on the album if you look back on it now?
No, of course there could be more things that could been changed and so on but there are always things that could been done, but the songs are in the way they are and we are very satisfied with them.
I would describe your music like heavy metal influenced by power metal, what is your description of your music?
Just pure fucking metal.
How did you get Ronny Hemlin to join?
As I said earlier we got in the need of a new lead vocalist and since I and LG from The Storyteller are very good friends so he got me Ronny?s number and then we talked over the phone and he was into given it a try and then the rest is where we are now.
What do you think of Ronny compared to your previous singers?
The best, there are nothing more to say about that.
Personally I think that Ronny takes the material to another level…
I agree totally with you on that. I really like that you can hear the meaning of each word in the way he sings them.
I read that Ronny lives in G?vle, how does it work when you?re going to rehearse?
It works great, and with internet we can exchange ideas back and forth within just minutes J . And Anden and Mike lives in Stockholm so they got even longer to travel to get to the rehearsal studio. So it all works just great.
Were you well-rehearsed when you went into the studio?
We think so due to the time we had 😉 it worked for us and it the music was not to over rehearsed and tiresome to record, so we really liked the preparation to the enslaved the way we did.
You toured in Europe with Exciter during October ’04. How was that?
A blast and we got really good friends with them. And also with the other German band Black Abyss. We go with these guys at any time, miss you all.
Why didn?t the tour come to Scandinavia?
I sadly don?t know why, but we really hope that we will get something going either with someone else or with them to Scandinavia.
How did the crowd respond to you when you were out on tour?
I think the response could been better in a way, but I understand that the respond was like it was since the album was released the same date as the tour started and since Exciter was the main act and they are in a way or two a lot different in style, then the majority was fans to them and also into their kind of metal, but we got great response to what we did anyway.
Are there any current plans on touring more on this album?
We are into playing live as much as possible so with the new booking agency we will see.
Has the band got a big fan-base?
Yes, and thanks to the internet we can interact with them in a way that could never been possible to do else.
Do you think that Arise are giving you the support and promotion that you need?
There been good support and promotion but there can always be more things to do to improve that.
This is your fourth album, how is the Swedish market for your kind of music do you think ?cause this is the first time I?ve heard of you!?
You took the word out of my mouth, so the Swedish market seems to be more or less unknown to us, sad but true but we hope to change that very soon.
When can we expect a fifth album from Steel Attack?
Don?t know yet, but next year or since it so close to 2005, then a new album out 2005 would be just perfect for us.
What are your plans for ’05?
Play live as much as possible. Write new songs etc.
Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of metal-rules.com?
Thanks for your support and hope that you enjoy the new album Enslaved as much as we do, and to all you new fans, or to you that never heard us before give your ears a own judge to the Steel Attack sound and visit our website
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
John / Steel Attack