Bandleader/bass player Ronnie König – Signus Regis
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Ulterium Records for setting up the interview
Thanks to Ulterium Records for the promo pictures of the band
Thanks to Ulterium Records for the additional live pictures of the band taken by: Daniele Fuligno, Michael Bolli and Nate Summer-Cook
Signus Regis – the Slovakian heavy metal band unleashed their third album EXODUS last year. The album is a theme album with guests vocalists like Göran Edman, Daisa Munhoz, Michael Vescera and Lance King. Since I thought the album was great I thought I should hook up with bandleader/bass player Ronnie König in order to get to know a little bite more about the band and their history. We handled issues like EXODUS, the matter of guest vocalists, the line-up and labels. Another topic that was handled was also the status of heavy metal/hardrock in Slovakia. Enjoy.
Hi Ronnie thanks for taking the time making this interview today. I thought we could begin to talk about the brand new Signum Regis album called EXODUS.
Yes I’m ready let’s go.
How long did it take to write and record the album?
Some songs that made it to the album were quite old, some were written in the last minute, so you cannot say exactly. Maybe, if you summed all the time, it could be 2-3 months.
The band’s previous album THE EYES OF THE POWER came out in 2010. What had the band been up to in between the release of that album and EXODUS?
In 2010, as we released the second album, we wanted to start playing live, but Göran was not so interested in traveling and doing all the things, that are related to playing live so I started looking for a new singer. We found a guy called Josef Vlaschinsky, who is a great singer but he sings only in Czech language. This is the reason, why we did a project called TRIGGER with him. It is quite different from the SIGNUM REGIS sound but also metal. There are some great songs on that album. We also played few shows with our old band VINDEX.
That album was a theme album right? And EXODUS is also a theme album. How come you wanted to make another album in the same shape but more grand?
Yes. This was not the original intention. In the beginning there were 3 songs that made one unit. Those were Let Us Go!, Wrath Of Pharaoh and Exodus. I thought that they could make an EP or a little trilogy on an album. When I presented this to Emil of Ulterium Records he came up with the idea to extend it and do a whole concept album.
What is EXODUS about? Could you tell us the story behind it?
Exodus is the second book of the Bible and our album is about it. We cover all the most important chapters of the story of Exodus: the enslavement of Israelites, Moses on Mount Sinai, Moses talking to the Pharaoh, The Ten Plagues, Exodus and the victory.
The album’s teaser was featured on Youtube before it was released. What did the fans think of the teaser?
From what I read I can tell that the feedback was very positive.
EXODUS is not only a theme album, but an opera like Avantasia. There are a lot of guest appearances on the disc. When was the idea to make a metal opera born?
We don’t use the term opera because we don’t have different roles for each singer. As mentioned we had a hard time finding a new singer. After a longer time of not being able to find anyone, there came this idea to do it all with guests.
What separates this album from the likes of Avantasia or Genius – the metal opera?
In my opinion we are more guitar oriented more metal and less theatrical.
Was it hard to decide which singers you wanted to have on the album?
No. The tricky part was to choose the right song for each singer. Eventually we did it very well because most of the reviewer thought that each song was tailor made for each singer. The truth is that it was the other way round.
Michael Vescera, Lance King, Göran Edman and Daisa Munhoz are few of the many, that contributed to the album. Was it hard to convince them to join forces with you?
No, it was more about scheduling and availability if they could do it for the release date.
How was it to work with the legendary Göran Edman this time?
Actually, we didn’t work together this time. The Helloween cover “Sole Survivor” was recorded few years ago. I have great memories of working together with him. It was always exiting to listen to how he would approach the songs and come up with his own ideas.
Is the band happy with the cover artwork?
Absolutely. Both front cover and booklet artwork are very well done.
When the band began working on the album, were you under pressure to achieve something “better” than THE EYES OF POWER?
No. I don’t feel this kind of a pressure. I am the kind of a person, who always tries to be better than before and I always believe that this time I am working on the best record so far.
Do you think that the band has developed musicwise since the release of THE EYES OF POWER? If so, in what way?
We’ve been making continual progress in 3 ways. We are a better live band, we are more tight and technically better. Second one is the album production. From album to album, we have always managed to have a better production. The third one is in the songwriting. With years of experience I think we have a better sense for a good song. It is the ability to spot a dynamical flaw in a song and basically getting the best out of every musical idea.
Do you think that your older fans are going to like EXODUS?
We already have a lot of feedback so I know that they like it
How would you like to describe what kind of music Signum Regis plays?
I am not very much into the labeling business but I think that power metal or heavy metal as a label for our music is fine.
Besides guest singers EXODUS also featured a row of guest musicians like Ivo Hofmann and Libor Krivak to mention a few. Was it hard to get them to join you?
No, because they are my friends from another band where I play – Symphonity. Both of them did an outstanding job.
According to the bio are also the old member Ado Kalaber and Adrian Ciel playing on the disc is that correct?
Correct. With Adrian it was the same situation as with Göran. He played drums on Sole Survivor, which was recorded some time ago. Ado has moved to another country, so that is the reason why he is not playing with us anymore but he is our good friend so it was nice to have him at least as a guest.
The bonus track “Mountain Of God” is featured on my promo version of the album. Is the song also featured on the regular version?
That track is not featured on the digital release it is a (physical) CD bonus track.
Are you happy with the final outcome of EXODUS or do you feel that you should have done anything in a different way?
There are always things, that could have been done differently but none of it is a big deal. We are happy about the final outcome.
The album also features a cover of the Helloween song “Sole Survivor” are you guys fans of Helloween or how come you chose to make a cover of that song?
Yes, we like Helloween but the idea to do it is related to a Helloween tribute album that was supposed to be released some time ago. At the end of the day we decided to have it rather on our own album. I think we did a pretty good job with that song.
Studio and production
Where was the album recorded and where did the guests record their parts? I guess that not everyone came to join you in the studio
You are right. The instruments were recorded in our own studio and the rest was recorded in the local studios of each guest.
The band is listed as producers, how involved were you in the production process?
We mean production in terms of being in charge of choosing the right songs of being our own main critics in doing the main decisions about the whole process of album creation.
Was it hard to mix/produce all the various singing parts together?
I some cases we had to improve or EQ the tracks so that they would match all the other tracks. Sometimes it was a bit harder but none of that was a huge problem. With today’s technology with my new Cubase software these things fall into the category of “business as usual”.
What’s the hardest thing with producing your own album? Isn’t it hard to stay objective?
Yes, it is but in a band you have few heads that listen to where the album is going they all have their opinions so the subjectivity is reduced a little bit. We also had the role of executive producer – Emil Westerdahl who had the final word to the outcome so there is always a helping hand around you just need to grab it. We have never worked with a professional producer so I can’t really compare it but I would guess that it is easier to follow your own gut feeling than doing it all according to someone else’s opinion.
You and guitarist Filip Kolus made the mixing, how was that?
That has been our way of working for a long time. I do the first phase of the mixing on my own and present the rough mix to Filip and the rest of the guys. Filip does a deeper analysis and writes a summary with remarks. Then I implement it and improve the mix. We might do it few times like that. Eventually we come to a final version.
Tommy Hansen made the mastering in his Jailhouse Studio in Denmark. Was any of the members part of that process?
No, we communicated with Tommy via email.
Have you been in Denmark if so did you like it there?
Not yet but I would love to go there one day.
You have worked with Hansen before, how was it to work with him again?
Yes, we have. He mastered our debut album. He did a great job, so we wanted to have him doing it again.
Signum Regis – Exodus [album teaser]
Label and management
Was it hard for the band to land a record deal?
It depends on what’s your perspective. I read really weird story about musical legends. Even Beatles were rejected by some labels. There are famous musicians, who still have their applications as a reminder of how hard it was to get where they are today. From this point of view, it was relatively easy for us to get a deal. On the other hand I can tell you too that I sent dozens and dozens of promo packages to various labels and most of the time there was no response at all.
The debut album was released by Locomotive Records but they just disappeared, what happened?
I have no idea but I think I would not be far from truth if I said that their sales were sinking and they simply went bankrupt.
Who owns the legal rights to the first album? Do you have any thoughts of re-releasing the first album?
We do and we already shared the rights with Ulterium Records. The debut album was re-released digitally via Ulterium Records with a bonus track called The Endless Road.
In 2010 you signed a deal with the Swedish label Inner Wound Recordings, how come you inked a deal with them?
We contacted a bunch of labels, but Emil knew us a little bit from the Elements Of Rock festival. I am not sure if he saw us playing there or if someone gave us a good recommendation. The truth of the matter is that we started communicating together and soon there was a mutual interest in working together.
Whats the biggest difference between working with Locomotive Records and Inner Wound Recordings?
It looks to me that when we signed the deal with Locomotive Records we boarded on a ship that was already half way under water. As far as I can remember we were one of their last releases. Of course at that time I didn’t know about it but soon I started getting farewell emails from the employees that they are moving on and so on. Due to this fact our working together with Locomotive Records was very short but I liked the guys that were communicating with me. I hope they are all doing well now. With Inner Wound Recordings / Ulterium Records, it is a whole new level of cooperation. There is a very honest and pleasant communication between us. I see it not only as a business deal. I consider Emil Westerdahl a dear friend of mine.
EXODUS is released by Ulterium Records which is a sisterlabel to Inner Wound why isn’t it released by Inner Wound?
It’s about fine matching to the catalog. With the third album we fit better to Ulterium Records.
Do you see any problems in the fact that the label is based in Sweden and the band in Slovakia?
Not at all. I see it as an advantage. The net of contacts is simply larger when we operate on an international level.
Ulterium Records is working together with the promotion agency Connecting Music, do you think the co-operation works fine?
I believe it does but I am not familiar with the details. It’s not in my scope.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
Absolutely. It has been good since the very beginning and it’s getting even better.
UR is releasing the album in Europe but what about the rest of the world, who releases it there?
Meanwhile it was released in US as well.
Are you currently working with any management?
No I’m not.
Did you and guitarist Kalaber and Kolus knew each other before you formed the band back in 2007? Have you been a part of any other bands before you formed Signum Regis?
Yes, we played together in a heavy metal band called VINDEX.
Where does the band name come from and what does it mean?
My brother who writes the lyrics for us came up with this name. It means “royal signature”. It sounds good its original, there is no other band with this name and it fits our music well.
Is Signum Regis a band or a project?
It started as a project and it developed to a real live band.
Was it hard to find band members? I’ve read that you had problems with finding a singer?
Totally. Finding the right people is the hardest thing. Once you have the line-up, you take it for granted and it becomes all natural, but if you don’t it’s very hard. There are so many things that are important. You need to find someone who is from your area and not from the other side of the world it has to be a kind of a person that can get along with you and all the other guys in the band. He has to have similar motivation to play and similar goals he wants to achieve he has to have the same or similar taste for the music he has to be good enough for the band. With that said you do the odds of finding someone like that. Even big bands often have hard time finding a replacement.
You got Göran Edman to sing in the band, how was it to get such a legend into the band?
I think that I had a lucky hand, when I was sending him the first bunch of songs. He liked them and that was the most important thing for the cooperation to start.
What did the media and critics think of the bands self titled debut that came 2008?
We got some pretty positive reviews. Some people really loved it. There were also some negative but that’s something you can never avoid.
The album was also released in Japan, what did the Asian fans think of your music?
Honestly I don’t know much about how it went there. We got some nice messages but that’s all I can tell. We need to go there for a tour and then we will see, haha
The drummer Ludek Struhar left the band in 2009. Was it an expected departure?
Yes he saw himself more like a guest than a regular band member.
He was replaced by Adrian Ciel but he also left the band the same year, how was that? Did the member changes make any mark in the rest of the band?
Adrian likes our music but he is not from our area. There was no problem for him to come to the studio a couple of times and record the album but when we wanted to start playing live and rehearse regularly the distance the travelling soon became a problem for him so decided not to be a part of the live band. He was the one who suggested to contact his friend Jaro Jancula our current drummer.
Are all the current band members from Slovakia?
Yes they are.
How’s the metal scene doing in Slovakia? Are there many clubs and venues for harder acts to play in?
Over the years I’ve been getting this question and always answering it quite negatively. Fortunately recently there has been a lot of positive development here. There are a lot of great concerts around world-class musicians are coming to play here and most importantly, there is a bunch of great bands from Slovakia. I would recommend to check out bands One Second, Hotel Persona Grata, Castaway, guitarist Peter Luha to name a few.
Does the band members have any bands or artists in common that you look up to or are inspired of?
No I don’t think that anyone of us has a concrete musical idol. On there other hand, there are dozens or hundreds of musicians that we like respect and learn from.
Where in the world do you have your biggest fanbase?
Wild guess: Slovakia, Switzerland, Brazil.
Past, present and future
Have you done any touring outside Slovakia so far?
Two weeks ago we played in Switzerland next month we will be playing in Germany and Netherlands.
Would you like to come out an tour and perform more than you have done in the past?
Who’s been taking care of the vocals on the shows you’ve done?
On the promo pictures I’ve seen there are only three members in the band, is the band still consisting of three guys?
No that was just the Exodus studio line-up but there are 5 of us now.
I’ve read that the band had a warm up gig at the end of February how was that and who did you warm up for?
That’s true. We were rehearsing for the show at Elements Of Rock in Switzerland that I mentioned. I think it went well and the show at the festival went even better. There are also 2 videos of that show on our youtube channel.
How would you like to describe a live show with Signum Regis like?
I think that we are that kind of a band that can reproduce what is on the CD with a good deal of precision. In addition to that, people often appreciate the energy and the spark that we create on stage. We don’t use any pre-recorded samples we play it all live.
Are there any plans on heading out on a proper European tour/shows soon?
No not yet but we are open to any proposals.
Do you have any festival shows booked for the summer so far?
There is a big festival in Slovakia called Lumen. We just received an email that we will be there. Soon it should also appear on their website.
The band got a really nice website, who runs it? Do you think it’s important to be active on the social forums that’s around nowadays?
Thank you very much. I run it myself. I think it is essential to be out there virtually. Especially for new bands.
What’s the most common question the bands get from fans?
Fans usually ask about the next gig in their area.
Last year did Kalaber leave the band did that interrupt the work with the album?
Not really. He has always been more into playing live and less into playing locked up in the studio.
Who takes care of the vocals in the band today?
Same guy since Autumn 2013 – Mayo Petranin.
Are you going to take in another guitarist or are you going to focus on having one guitar player in the future?
We are just fine with Filip being the only guitar player in the band and we have no plans to hire a second guitar player at the moment.
Are you happy with what Signum Regis has achieved so far?
Yes we are very happy but we believe there is more to be achieved in the future. We are nowhere close to having our dreams come true
Are there any interest for the band in Asia and America?
Yes, we are still young and willing to travel and see the world.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Signum Regis yet?
I would tell it like it is: we are metal heads who take our music and our band seriously. We are already experienced musicians with good technical and songwriting skills. I would recommend our website and youtube channel so that they can make their own opinion. Now there are some metal fans who are not interested in any new bands and all they need is a new Metallica record every 8 years but for those who are still passionate about the scene and who are eager to discover something new. I believe Signum Regis is one of the bands that they might want to check out.
Could you give three reasons why the readers should buy EXODUS?
Great songs great singers and cool lyrics.
Well, that was all for now. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the fans and readers?
Thank you Anders for taking your time and preparing this well-researched set of questions. It was a pleasure to answer them. Big thanks to the visitors of metal-rules.com for reading this interview and for visiting signum-regis.com!
Thanks a lot for taking the time to make the interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future!
Thanks so much.