Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Emerald

Interview By JP

The following is an interview with Switzerland's melodic, epic heavy metal act, Emerald.


Can you tell us about the history of EMERALD?

The band started in 1995 with the joining of two bands: Dark Crystal, where the guitarists Jvo Julmy and Michael Vaucher, and the singer Véronique Remy; and Oppress where came the bass player Roger Winkler and the drummer Stefan Neuhaus, thus it started a melodic Heavy Metal band. Then when they were creating songs, Remy goes, but Julmy takes the vocals. Two months later Winkler leaves too, and in 1997 Adriano Troiano entered to replace him. On November of the same year, Emerald did their first show. In 1998, Thomas Vaucher joined on the keyboards. "Rebels Of Our Time" was the first album<1999>. The band played several small concerts, until Troiano decides to leave the band for personal reasons. The next 1 ½ years, EMERALD is without a bass player and, therefore, can’t play any gigs. So, time is spent in the rehearsal room composing songs. Thomas introduced the band to a guy named Stephan Kaufmann, who used to play bass in a Blues/Hard Rock cover band. He immediately likes the material and soon, he fits in very well. EMERALD continues their way, and in 2001 - because of many great reactions from the fans - the guys release a second CD called “Calling the Knights.” Then, another line-up change (the last so far) was unfortunately announced: founding member and drummer Stefan Neuhaus left the band. Because of his family and his job, he had not enough time and interest in EMERALD anymore. A replacement was found after a long search in Andy Bächler from Rechthalten, Switzerland. After sending tons of CD’s and leaflets to labels and record companies, SHARK showed their interest in EMERALD.


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Why did you decide to produce an independent album, instead of sending demos to record labels and waiting?

After 3 years of playing together and actually only a few live gigs, we came to the point where we asked ourselves how to continue. Should we continue to play for ourselves? Should we break up or should we make a CD to present ourselves to the public? Well, it had to be a CD. We checked several studios, but those were way too expensive for us. Finally, we decided to record the material with the band of Adriano’s music teacher in their rehearsal room. You can believe me, this was very expensive, and we were a young, inexperienced band. But I guess everyone has to make his experiences and pay for it. We just didn’t want a tape with 2 or 3 songs only, that wasn’t enough for us. If we did it, then it had to be a full length album. Of course we then sent copies to labels and record companies, but without any success.



Your strategy obviously worded as you are now signed to Shark Records. How did this event happen?

After the release of our second independent album “Calling the Knights,” we hoped again to find a label who would distribute our album. Michael has done a great job and sent over a hundred items to several labels and record companies. Almost every day we received refusals. Each company said, to promote a young, unknown band was not in their budget, as it was a risk. Shark Records, who we asked as a label, offered us a contract, as they signed some new bands, and of course they liked the material. After discussing the formalities, we signed the contract.



Tell us about the re-issue of Calling the Knights? How did Ken Kelly get involved?

The idea was to re-release “Calling…” Thomas and I went to the “Moormann-Studios” in Bochum and met the producer and owner of Shark Records, Axel Thubeauville. We re-mixed and re-mastered the songs. He put 2 bonus tracks on the album (taken from “Rebels…”) and released it - even in Brazil! Axel asked us whether he should release the album with the same cover artwork, but we thought, that it deserved something new. This makes the independent release also special in some ways. We checked our own LP and CD collections to find some paintings we liked. We soon came to the covers of MANOWAR and thought, this could be something for us. Michael went on his home page (Ken-kelly-art.com) and e-mailed him directly, whether several pictures were available and how much they cost. He answered immediately and said it is no problem to buy one of his astonishing pictures. Of course we are very proud of it!



On your second album you did a very cool but very obscure cover tune by Medieval Steel. How and why did you choose that song?

Well, in a way, that was not directly our own idea. After evaluating the reviews of our first album, we noticed that a lot of magazines and fans wrote that our music is similar to old 80’s US metal bands like Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road and Medieval Steel. Michael asked the rest of the band whether we wanted to cover their hymn. Of course we were enthusiastic about it - except me! After I heard the vocals, I said “forget it,” as the key was rather high. But I finally managed. And there are NO female vocals at the end of the song as so many thought! And yes, I’m still a man…


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I understand you have difficulty keeping a drummer in the band. How this affected the band and your opportunities to play live shows?

Yes, it is not easy to find someone that shares the ideals with the rest of the band. After Stefan’s decision to leave the band, we immediately started looking for a new drummer. In the meantime, we worked on the song writing (the drums came from the keyboards). Stephan actually offered to introduce and help at the beginning, which we highly appreciated. Here in Switzerland, drummers, it seem, are very rare (as well as bass players and singers). A friend of ours used to work for the same company as Andy did, and he arranged a meeting. Andy immediately liked our songs, and also our future plans, and we all got along together very well from the start. During this time, we didn’t play one single concert. Actually, we had only 2 concerts within one year.



I noticed that everyone contributes to the writing of the band. Do members bring in ideas or whole songs? Is there collaboration on lyrics and other ideas?

Each person brings in his own ideas. Whether complete songs with or without lyrics, lyrics only, or just some riffs. If someone has a complete song, we arrange it together. It is important just to jam sometimes. But we usually forget to record it, so, any ideas might be lost the next time, but all of us are involved in the writing process.



Switzerland for some reason is not known for metal bands. Why do you think that is? Have you experienced any problems getting exposure because of your nationality?

It is not a problem to play metal and to be Swiss, but there simply is no metal scene in Switzerland. In pubs, bars and clubs, they play tech-NO, sixties and seventies pop songs have came back lately. Heavy Metal is “noise” for the mass, and has not a high state in society. Concerts are held, but only few. There is some Death, Grind and so on. True Metal is hardly to be found with us. Thank god Germany holds the flag for this kind of music!



Do you have any plans to tour this summer or are you going to work on a new album?

Well, we are booked for the HEADBANGER’S OPEN AIR (www.headbangers-open-air.de) near Hamburg in July, which is the only concert for this year so far. We hope there are more to come. But for the moment, songwriting is on top of the list, as Shark would like to release a new album before this festival. Song writing process is not finished yet - 3 songs are missing. But we are positive about it.



This is a tougher question: Right now there are many, many European melodic power metal bands. Some even say, too many. What Is EMERALD going to do to stand out from the pack?

In our opinion, our style is kind of special, as it is not that simple to put us into any category. It’s not only “true”, “power”, “melodic” or “hard rock”. It is - even for us - very hard to define. But as long as we like what we play, we don’t care about what they call it actually!


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What does the future hold for EMERALD?

We hope, the 3rd album will please us and of course you - the fans. Hopefully, it is a good investment for Shark Records, who believe in us. We would love to present the new material to live audience. Maybe we will have the chance to play outside Switzerland - a first step is the Headbanger’s Open Air. To go on tour is a dream of ours - with all its positive and negative sides. Last but not least, we would like to take the opportunity and thank METAL-RULES and especially you, JP, for giving us the chance to present ourselves in Canada! HEAVY METAL IS STILL ALIVE, GO AND LIVE IT! Hail to all fans all over the world - EMERALD will strike back in 2003, so be prepared. For more information, please visit our homepage www.emerald.ch or send an e-mail to msvaucher@freesurf.ch.


Band Website: www.emerald.ch