Let the Dragon Fly and True Metal Reign!
Interviewed by Rick Maloney
North America has not been known in the last few years for its metal culture. Europe has served as the breeding ground of many of the worlds best metal bands but Total Eclipse are out to change that. They hail from San Francisco, California and play classic / progressive / power metal that is sure to bring them to prominence on the worlds metal scene. I recently had a chance to speak with guitarist Erik Cameron and vocalist Andi (Dracons) Giardina.
When and where was Total Eclipse started?
Total Eclipse was started in Fresno, California of all places. My brother and I started playing the guitar around ?93 and as soon as we could string four or five licks together we started writing songs. Our original stuff sounded like early Slayer meets Iron Maiden type stuff, nothing mind blowing but it was fun. Not long after that one of our best friends named Ed, who we had know for years, started jamming with us. He was a guitar player too so me and him would switch off playing the bass. Then one day another friend of ours who had a drum set came over but he sucked, the learning curve between him and us was way too big. So our friend Ed jumped on the drums and started playing, he was awesome! Not long after that I started calling us Total Eclipse. We never played live or released a demo but that was the original incarnation of Total Eclipse. Then in ?98, once I got out of high school, we moved to the SF bay area to get serious about the band. That?s when we met the rest of the guys.
Can you give me a quick idea of the kind of music that you create? i.e. as what kind of metal would you classify your music?
We like to throw all of our influences together and just see what comes out. More so on the first CD we?re going to have a little of everything. I think we create the kind of music that we?ve always wanted to hear. Isn?t that the point of starting a band? At least, it should be. As far as classifications, when we first met Ramon, the drummer, and gave him a tape of some of our newer songs he came back and told us they were all epics. We wanted to call ourselves something different the just ?Heavy? metal so we started calling ourselves Epic Metal. But like everyone else we don?t really like to classify ourselves.
Erik and Chris are brothers so it is only natural that they would be in the same band but could you tell us how everyone else came to join Total Eclipse.
Well, when we first arrived in SF in 98 we put an ad in the local musician?s magazine for a drummer. We received about 7 or 8 calls at first from a bunch of losers. We?ve known plenty of losers so we could tell over the phone, we didn?t even need to jam with them. Then Ramon called and it sounded like he was as serious as us, plus all the influences were definitely there, so we set up a practice at a local rehearsal studio. We set everything up then we were like, what should we play? Ramon suggested Holy Wars by Megadeth. Once we started my brother and I just kept looking at each other, we were so blown away by how good Ramon was. It just kind of clicked, we made it through the whole song then that was it, we had a new drummer. About two months later we found an ad in a different magazine that said something like, ?progressive metal bassist seeks band, no druggies.? That was exactly what we were looking for. At the time I was singing, but we knew we eventually would have to find a ?real? singer. So about four months later, after we had recorded all the music for the demo, we put an ad out for singer. We put under influences, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Queensryche, since those are three of the greatest Metal singers of all time. You would think after naming those bands we wouldn?t get any calls from any idiots, right? Wrong, these guys were calling saying things like, ?oh yeah, that stuff?s cool but I want to go for more a new sound.? Sure buddy, don?t call us we?ll call you, know what I mean? Finally Andy called, he had all the same influences and he seemed very passionate towards his music so we figured we?d give him a shot. He came and rehearsed with us and he was awesome, the first song we played was Two Minutes to Midnight and he sounded good. We gave him a tape of the song ?Guardians of Metal? so he could record the vocals over it with his four track. That?s when it hit me though, when he brought the tape back with his vocals on it. I listened to it and I said, ?that?s it, he is the singer of Total Eclipse. The only three musicians we auditioned for the band are the three guys we?re still jamming with. In these days of the ?less is more? type attitude towards music in the US I still can?t believe that five true metal musicians with the same vision were brought together. It had to be some kind of divine intervention.
Can you fill me in on the influences and backgrounds of the band members and how these come together to form the Total Eclipse sound? What other bands and CDs are you listening to right now?
There are some bands that we all listened to before we started jamming together. Such as Maiden, Priest, Mercyful Fate and some of the other obvious ones. But since we?ve started jamming together we?ve all been introduced to different bands by each other. Ramon listens to a lot of the older thrash metal bands like, Anthrax, Forbidden, and Exodus. I knew about those bands but I never realized how good they were until Ramon let me borrow some of his albums. Ramon actually started out by playing in thrash metal bands in SF in the early 90?s. My brother and I love the old 80?s Shrapnel albums, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Racer X, Tony MacAlpine, stuff like that. There are plenty of good, new guitarist these days but I don?t think they have the same feel as those guys I mentioned. We all listen to some of the newer European metal band like Gamma Ray, Helloween, and Rhapsody but that?s about it. I don?t think we get as much influence from those guys as we do from the classics. As far as CD?s that we are listening to I can speak for me and my brother. If you hung around with us for a week these are the albums you would definitely hear, probably a couple times.
Cacophony- Go Off
Racer X- Second Heat
Queen- Queen 2, Sheer Heart Attack and Night at the Opera
Steve Vai- Alien Love Secrets and Fire Garden
Jason Becker- Perpetual Burn
Marty Friedman- Dragon?s Kiss
There are plenty of others, but these are the ones you would probably be sick of if you were around us for the last six months. I know, it?s pretty eclectic but we like our music over the top. Your gonna hear the influence of all these bands I?ve mentioned a lot more on our first CD though.
Your music cannot be classified as strictly power metal as to me it has some progressive elements. Is that by design or is it just the bands natural sound?
I really don?t think about it when I write music. It just comes out how it does. A lot of people hear a lot of different thing in our music. Opinions are like assholes, what can you say? I personally wouldn?t classify us as progressive by any stretch of the imagination. We?re not making any progress, everything we?ve done has been done before, we?re just doing it how we think it should be done.
Why does this type of metal appeal to you when its not the “in” music in North America?
Lots of people ask us that. Especially my brother and I because we?re so young. I think if you could name the reason that this music appeals to you then your not a real metal fan. It?s the same with people who are drawn to any type of creative medium. Whether it be music, art, or literature. There is just something untangable that speaks to them. I get a feeling when I listen to good heavy metal that I don?t get anywhere else.
You have a great song in the Metal Rules!! mp3 archive called “Storm Warning”. Can you describe your music to anyone who has only heard that song? How does it compare to the rest of the material on your CD?
I think Storm Warning is a bit more in-your-face then the rest of the tracks on the demo. The other songs are more in the classic early 80?s style of metal. Storm Warning moves a lot faster then the rest of the songs and the guitar parts are definitely a little more technical. That?s more of the writing style I was using for our newer songs that will be on our first CD. That?s why Storm Warning is the only track from the demo that will make it onto the album. It?ll be the same arrangement but we?re going to re-record it and spice it up a little.
Guardians of Metal is a great EP I was wondering if you could fill me in on why you recorded it and why it is only an EP instead of a full length release?
Thanks. We just wanted to put something down on tape to be able to let people hear. I think it sounds kinda phony when people tell me there in a band but they have nothing to let people hear. We needed something to send out to get our name out there. Money was some what of an issue but that?s not really the reason we only did four songs. We had only be playing together for a few months and we didn?t even have a singer yet. We only wanted to do a demo and thought three songs weren?t enough, and five was too many.
Who are the main songwriters in the band? Does everyone help with the development of the songs or are they brought to the band as a finished piece?
I write the music for the band. I also did the lyrics for the demo, but now Andy writes the lyrics. I still write lyrics occasionally but Andy?s lyrics are just so good I don?t even want to compete with them. My brother writes some of the music too but it?s usually me who puts the song together. I bring them to the band as a finished product then Ramon takes the tape, listens to it, and comes back and plays us what he hears the drums doing. It?s usually the same thing I heard, or if it?s not sometimes it?s better. Owen usually sits down with my brother and I and we go over the bass parts. Andy usually writes the lyrics around my guitar melodies but I have written stuff based on lyrics that he has giving me. I write the songs but they don?t become real Total Eclipse songs until everyone has put in there own thing.
Who produced the cd and how long did it take to record?
We pretty much produced it. The guy who engineered it gave us a couple ideas but it was pretty much us. We recorded it in two days and mixed it in one. It was definitely a rush-rush deal. About a month later we found Andy and we went back and did the vocals. Andy had only been in the band for about two months and he recorded the vocals in about six hours. He?s a much better singer then what he sounds like on the demo, just wait till the next album.
Do you have any plans to do an extended tour behind the release of this cd or are you planning to stick close to home?
No, there are no plans for anything like that. We?ve actually had quite a few request by people over in Germany and Greece for a tour but it?s not really a realistic thing right now. We play shows all the time in the Bay Area. We have fun and it helps us perfect our live chops so we?ll be ready when the opportunity for an actually tour arises.
The cover artwork by Shawn Lux is great and is very fitting for the subject matter. Can you tell us a bit about it and the artist?
The artist actually had some artwork of his hanging in the studio where we recorded the demo. It looked like he would be able to do what we wanted so we gave him a call. It turned out just how I wanted it, I was happy with it. We?re going for something different next time though. I debated whether to put a dragon on the cover because it is a tad clich? but then I remembered, I don?t care what people think. Dragons were guardians in mythology, and I couldn?t think of anything better, haha!
Did the finished product sound the way that you had hoped?
I guess it?s not exactly what I had in mind but it?s good. Considering how long we had been playing together and how fast we recorded it.
Do you have any material written for a new release and if so will it be a full length cd this time? As well is there any label interest in the band? If so who? and if not does it in any way make you rethink the kind of music that you are playing?
All the material for the first album is finished, we even have some songs for the second album. We?re gonna do eight songs on this one. Besides the fact that our newer songs are pretty long we didn?t want to put like, fifteen songs on a CD. A lot of bands do that nowadays and it seems that the songs start to lose there originality after awhile. We want to do an album where every song stands on it?s own, and every song is a classic. You know, like Number of the Beast or Melissa, or Rainbow Rising. There is definitely no label interest in the band right now. It doesn?t make us rethink what we?re doing though. Our music has changed somewhat but that?s just because we?ve progressed as musicians.
What interests do you all have outside the band?
Well, I don?t have any real outside interest. I read a lot but that?s about it. My brother and I are pretty anti-social, we just stay at home and play our guitars. The local music scene isn?t that great. Besides for a select few the metal crowd is so apathetically towards there music. They just stand there most of the time trying to look cool. I don?t know if I would use the term ?large? amount of people but we have acquired some fans through our live shows.
There seems to be a large music scene is California. How does Total Eclipse fit into this scene? Are you unique in the kind of music that you play or are there other bands making real metal in your area? What are your feelings on the state of metal in your own area and in North America as a whole?
We stick out like a sore thumb here. There are no bands is this area doing what were doing. There are definitely some great bands here but they?re not playing the kind of music we are. I think the local scene is getting better. The bands seem to be leaning more towards the heavier kind of rock as opposed to that mellow crap that ran rampant in the mid 90?s. I think the same goes for the whole US. Not that I like or listen to the popular ?metal? these days but it?s a step in the right direction. The problem is that the music industry is a big business now. It?s virtually impossible for a band to get anywhere without some major label backing it. The Internet has definitely helped, but it?s still hard.
Erik both you and Chris are exceptional guitar players as well as being relatively young. Who are your influences and how did you come about playing this style of progressive power metal instead of the more popular “rap metal” (i.e. crap) that mainstream fans seems to be into these days?
I don?t know about exceptional…haha. My brother and I have the same influences so I?ll just name them. Of course there?s Yngwie but that?s not all. We love Steve Vai, Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Tony Macalpine, John Petrucci. We never really knew, or cared, what was popular. We just knew what we liked. I don?t understand how someone can hear those guys and not be blown away, but I may be giving people too much credit. I?ve also been getting into Al Dimeola recently, that guy was way ahead of his time.
I know that Andy is from Italy. Andy: what do you think of the North American metal scene and how does it compare to the metal scene in Italy which has spawned such great bands as Rhapsody and Labyrinth? Why did you come to North America to play in a metal band when Italy seems to have such a vibrant metal scene?
Andy – Actually, when I was in Italy I had never heard of any of those bands. Just recently the scene in Italy has really seemed to grow. I had already moved to the US when the Metal scene over there really started to take off.
Andy: I have heard some cover tunes from Total Eclipse, most notably Painkiller, which you handled magnificently. Can you tell me who your influences are and who are some of your favourite current vocalists?
Andy- Bruce Dickinson of course, that guy is phenomenal. These new power metal singers these days are good but I still don?t think any of them can touch the stuff Bruce was doing back in the 80?s. I also like Rob Halford, Ozzy and Ronnie James Dio. Mostly singers from the 80?s. As far as current singers I think Fabio Lione from Rhapsody is excellent, as well as Olaf Hayer from Luca Turilli?s solo album.
I know that you recently had a show with Imagika who are another awesome unsigned band. Have you done any larger shows with more established acts and what can a fan at a Total Eclipse show expect to see?
Imagika is definitely an awesome band. They?re easily the best band in the Bay Area. No big shows yet though. We were trying to get the opening slot when Dio came around but it fell through.
Total Eclipse have an amazing website at http://126.96.36.199/home.html Has the internet been of any help in getting your music out to the people? What do you yourselves think of the internet and are any of the band members internet junkies?
The Internet has been one of the best things for this band so far. I think it has positive and negative aspects. It?s great for unsigned bands trying to get there name out there but not always as good for big name acts. I don?t think there are any hardcore Internet junkies in the band. Just moderate surfing I suppose. Ramon, our drummer, designs and maintains the webpage. he?s definitely the most computer literate one in the band.
On a closing note. Is there anything else that you would like to say to the readers of Metal Rules?
I guess we’ll most likely record (the new cd) in early August. We’re probably going to do it with Uwe Lulius, the guitarist of Grave Digger. I’ll keep you posted though.