Solitude Aeturnus / Candlemass – Robert Lowe
THE VOICE OF DOOM METAL – ROBERT LOWE
The singer of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Transcription by Antaura Zed
Robert Lowe has fronted the mighty Texas doom metal legends Solitude Aeturnus since the early 90’s and gained a respectable status as one of the greatest metal vocalists. Back in 2007 when the Swedish doom metal giant Candlemass were struggling with a vocalist problem again, looking for a suitable vocalist – an unexpected rescue came from the other side of the world. When Robert Lowe teamed up with Candlemass, he had a big task to convince old Candlemass fans. The second album with Robert Lowe as a frontman of Candlemass entitled “Death Magic Doom” is an perfect masterpiece in the doom metal genre. Before Candlemass took to the stage, I had the great opportunity of talking about Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass. (The interview was conducted during the Tuska festival time).
So this is your second time visiting Finland. The last time you played in Finland you were up in Oulu.
Despite your short time in Finland, what kind of impression have you gotten about Finland so far?
So far, yeah, you have beautiful women; I have to say it right away. I don’t know, you know, when we went to Oulu it was so quick – in and out, you know. Basically to the club and then gone so, you know, I didn’t really get a chance to get any kind of impression. But just- I mean, and this is the only place I’ve been right now, so- It’s nice, it’s clean – it seems clean; well, you know, that’s about- that’s about all I can tell you.
Did you have any kind of knowledge of Finnish bands before you came to Finland?
I’d known of a few, but-
And, you know, Amorphis. Been a fan of Amorphis for a while. Yeah, I didn’t realize that- well, you know, it’s not that way, it’s just singers, right; that’s just what it was. But yeah, I’ve known of a few.
DEATH MAGIC DOOM
Death Magic Doom is the second Candlemass album with you. So far I have read nothing but positive and praising reviews everywhere like magazines, Internet, stuff like that. But were you kind of surprised to see that you’re getting so many good reviews about the new album? Are you flattered about that?
Well, yeah, I mean, obviously we appreciate that. You know, going into it Leif was real positive about it. We all felt pretty good about the material. You know, and- I just go in there and do what we do. But yeah, I was surprised to see so many, you know, ten-out-of-tens, album of the month, you know, high numbers all over the place and in all the big magazines. So yeah, that is flattering, you know, obviously because you put out a product and you want people to at least enjoy it.
But I guess the writing process and the recording process of the new album was carried out in a different way than the previous album was KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS ?
Yeah, exactly, I mean, because this one was done with, you know, basically an established unit, you know. I’ve been in the band, we’ve only done one album, we’ve only done two tours, so- yeah, I think Leif, you know, knew who he was writing for this time ‘cause King of the Grey Islands was already done and written, you know, when they thought they had Messiah. And also on this one, I did fly over to record so I recorded in Stockholm at the Polar Studios with the guys. You know, that always makes it easier when you’re face to face with somebody, you know; “What about this?” or “Let’s try this,” or “No, let’s cut that” or “Do it this way” and, you know, you can just work on it a little better than when you record it in Dallas and the guys are in Stockholm.
But in general, because you live in Dallas, Texas, and the other guys live in Stockholm, how do you change the ideas? Do they send the files of the new material to you and you check it out and give your opinions on what it sounds like and-
Well, actually, I guess I didn’t let on right. The music on this one was already done; Leif and the guys had already put it together. I basically just came in and had my ideas about the vocals, not, you know, like he used to basically write Messiah’s vocals for him. I write my own. So that was the only real, I guess, input I had – was to say “Ah, I sing it like this” or “This sound be more rough” or “This should be soft.”
I read an interview with Leif where he said, “Robert went out and was chain smoking, and then he came in and nailed it down.”
Yeah, that’s the truth, you know. I came over, I was here for either seven or nine days, I forget. I was there for three or four days before I even started recording so we- I was just going out drinking, having a good time every night. Then get up the next day, go into the studio about, I don’t know, two o’clock, four o’clock in the evening, nail a couple of songs and go back out. But yeah, in between takes- if I get frustrated then, you know, after a take or so if I don’t like what I’m doing, I just go, “I’ll be back,” go have a couple of smokes, come back in and go, “Okay, my head’s clear, let’s do it,” you know. Then – boom, boom, boom – knock the shit out and be done.
“Hammer of Doom,” I guess it has been classified as one of the great doom metal songs right now and there’s even a Hammer of Doom festival in Germany.
Yeah, we were going to name the album that before that festival came up. So we went, “Ah crap, what are we gonna name it now?”
But in general, are you surprised that “Hammer of Doom” is already labelled a classic song?
Yeah, that is surprising, considering that it hadn’t even been out long enough for- I guess, you know, I mean, there are still people who are still buying it and still getting acquainted with it. So it’s hard to say this is a classic when, you know, obviously classics are something that have been around for a while and everbody’s acquainted with and it can be proven over a period of time that it has standing power. But I think this one has standing power just like, you know, Nightfall or Epicus. I think this can last, you know, ten, twenty years on this album. It’s got enough variants of material on it, within the album, to where it’s not just placid, you know; it’s not just A to B, it goes up and down too – it hits the curves. So I think that helps.
What are your favourite songs off the new album? Why?
Well, definitely “Hammer of Doom” because it’s slow and doomy and it’s got a couple of in-your-face parts; I like that. “The Bleeding Baroness” is cool, yet again kind of slow, ethereal, but it’s got some in-your-face parts, like the verses are chunky and groovin’- well, not really groovin’ but, you know, they just take on a rhythm of just, “dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, bah-nah-nah-nah,” you know. And the last song, I like it because I like the very ending of the last verse of the last song. You know, I’m still getting acquainted with the material as to- well, one week I like one song better than the other, then the next week I’ll go, “No, wait a minute, that one kicks more ass than that one.” So it’s still back and forth.
What about KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS ? I guess there’s some personal favourite on that one as well?
Yeah, that one right away with “Devil Seed.” As soon as I first heard that I was like, totally into that one. And “Emperor of the Void,” you know, is good. I like “Demonia 6.” Not too many people like that one, but I like that one. So, yeah, there’s a lot of good songs on that album too and it just, you know- for me it’s like with any band: it changes, you know. I listen to one song and it’s like “Ah, I’m tired of that and I like something else.”
When you joined Candlemass, I guess you didn’t know the guys in advance at all.
No, not at all.
But you had done some Candlemass songs with Solitude Aeturnus before. You were f amiliar with the stuff and you were familiar with the lyrics and stuff like that before?
Yeah, we used to actually cover “Well of Souls” a lot too with Solitude. So we were fans of Candlemass, but I’d never- personally I’d never met the guys. It was after I’d recorded the album and flew to Sweden to do a photo shoot, you know. I meet them at the bar and it’s like “Oh, hey, hi, I’m Rob,” you know, “I’m Leif Edling, how are you doing?” So it was really odd, you know.
I read somewhere that your girlfriend introduced you to Candlemass. Well, actually, she gave you the tip that you should join Candlemass.
Yeah, she’s the one who got the whole thing rolling because, you know, when I hooked up with my girlfriend I got her into Candlemass and then she was just playing around on the Internet one day and saw that Messiah left and called me and said “You should do it” and I said, “No” and she said, “Well, I’m going to email Leif anyway” and then, about twenty minutes later, the ball started rollin’ and it’s been like that ever since.
I read in an interview that Leif said that they have found the new Dio.
The new Dio?
Yeah, for Candlemass.
That’s funny. I have seen those comparisons – you know, not that I’m comparing myself to Dio or anybody, but- You know, people are saying “Look, forget about Messiah,” you know, look what Sabbath did, you know: they had Ozzy and when Ozzy left everyone went, like, “Ugggh!” but then Dio stepped in and carried Sabbath on, you know, and now Dio is what he is. So, I’ve seen that kind of comparison out there.
The debut gig with Candlemass and the band’s the anniversary gig as well happened in April 2007 in Stockholm.
I saw the whole gig and noticed that you were a little bit nervous about it – being on stage for the first time on Swedish ground.
Well, yeah. I mean, that was the first time I’d even played with the guys. We had a erhearsal the night before – not really a rehearsal because I just did one or two songs, you know, when Johan was there and they were working on the older material. So, I mean, with the exception of maybe a couple of tunes at rehearsal, I’d never played with the guys. You know, I didn’t know how to fuckin’ be on stage or how they were, you know, on stage. So yeah, it’s like, “All right, let me get this done and over with so I can get out of here.” I was ready to be done, you know.
But it was really one of a hell of gig, having old singers Johan Langquist and Thomas Vikström – then you as a new singer and on Swedish ground, well they didn’t smash you down there.
I don’t- You know, I mean- I don’t know, I don’t care. It didn’t matter, I’m still singing for Candlemass today so, whatever.
But when you got on the stage and did the debut gig - after that you have improved a lot; you have done a lot of gigs all around as a Candlemass singer and you have done festivals. How do you see this improvement from your side?
Well, yeah, obviously there’s got to be some improvement; you, know, you just have to get comfortable with it. And after touring Europe and the U.S. and, like you said, we’ve done several festivals, everybody’s happy, you know, it’s just comfortable up there.
Was it some kind of problem for you to sing the old Candlemass songs from the classics albums like the first one or Nightfall or Ancient Dreams with the new stuff as well? Because everybody can recall the old Candlemass songs and want to hear them and they are identified with Messiah in one way or another ?
No, not really. I mean, I like the old material and I knew I could sing it – I mean, obviously I’m not going to sound like Johan or I’m not going to sound like Messiah – but I think we keep it close enough because, you know, if I go and do, you know, "A Sorcerer’s Pledge," it’s definitely a little bit different than the way we do our own new stuff. So, yeah, I just try to keep it simple and try to stick to the original as much as possible. ‘Cause, you know, I know the people – the old fans especially – want to hear the old material. I’m not different with any band either. When I go see Maiden I want to hear old shit, you know. So, you know, I know that people expect that. So you want to do the job and not change it too much, not just, you know, go up there and make it your own and change the way it’s done; it’s not what people want.
THE CURRENT STATUS OF SOLITUDE AETURNUS
Right now you’re very busy with Candlemass, so what’s up with Solitude Aeturnus right now?
Oh, we’re actually playing gigs. I played a gig Friday night before I left to come here last week and we did a couple of gigs for Ornithine. We’re currently working on new material for the next album, probably first of the year.
Has it ever crossed your mind to do a double show at the same gig with Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus or is that too much?
That’s too much. Yeah. But actually, we’re doing the Rock City Open Air Fest in Romania – Solitude is – on Friday night and on Sunday Candlemass is plying. Yeah, so that’ll be an interesting gig.
It’s going to be some kind of test for you – of how you can survive.
Yes, yeah. It’s gonna be- it’ll be fun, man. ‘Cause, you know, I’ve got all day Saturday to recover.
After teaming up with the Candlemass guys, do you think Solitude has had more attention from the people? Like, “Oh, you’re from Solitude; I’m going to check out your band now because you’re with Candlemass.”
Yeah, I think there’s definitively been some crossover either way, you know. I’m sure there are some Solitude fans that- they haven’t really checked out Candlemass and maybe they do now. You know, I know that a lot of people know who Candlemass is, probably more so than Solitude, and I know that’s got to help. I mean, you can’t- Obviously someone’s gonna go, “Woah. Okay, so he says he’s with this other band, I’m gonna check it out.” So I think it’s helped.
As for the first Solitude Aeturnus album INTO THE DEPTHS OF SORROW, It’s a classic and great album still.
Yeah, I think it still holds up. I mean, we- that’s why we remastered it because it’s- I think it’s, you know, quality enough to where, you know, by remastering it we were able to get some more of the bass tones out that we wanted and beef it up just a little bit because that was done in like, a week – everything. I had like, two days to do the vocals on that thing. So, you know, obviously, if we had more time and more money back then- but who knows? It could’ve been too much time and too much money; it could’ve been crap. So, who knows? Whatever.
It was very hard to find the album so one guy had managed to get the tape of your first album and he recorded it for me and we did the whole tape trading thing. And the same thing happened with the Beyond the Crimson Horizon album. Actually, there was some kind of list of upcoming albums in a Finnish magazine or newspaper and it was there in small print.
You had to get your magnifying glass out, yeah.
FROM ONE LABEL TO ANOTHER ONE
But, in general, you didn’t have a good relationship with Roadrunner Records back then.
Nah, we hated them and they hated us. Yeah, they picked us up, but then that was about the time that the scene turned and bands like- I don’t know who the fuck I’m trying to think of. Son of a bitch.
More death metal bands, or… ?
Well, yeah, you know- Damn it! I could picture it, right here. Anyway, bands like Deicide and all that kind of crap started coming out; that’s what they were really pushin’. So they just kind of let us slide and we finally told ‘em, “Dude, fuckin’ forget it; we’re gonna find another label” and they didn’t really give us a fight.
But you ended up with Pavement Records?
Yup. They actually did pretty good for us – as best they could. Then pretty much from there to Massacre. Massacre, although not doing a lot right now, did do really good for us for Adagio. I seen some print- some press on- you know, when Alone came out there was some good stuff out there, but that- I don’t know hard they really pushed it, you know, ‘cause Nuclear Blast does a good job and you could pick up any magazine and see something about the new Candlemass in there.
TIME GAP BETWEEN ALBUMS
The album ALONE came out three years ago?
Yeah, it was like the end of ‘06 and the first of ‘07 in the States. So, yeah, it’s, you know, a couple of years old, but-
There’s a gap between ADAGIO and the ALONE album – eight years or something like that.
How is that possible? Were you resting on your laurels ?
Yeah, pretty much. We all got lazy, we all started doing things, people started moving, people got married, people had kids, you know, and before you know it, eight years goes by. And it would have been sooner because we actually had a different line-up to record it – we had a different bass player and a different drummer – and we rehearsed with those guys for about a year or two years, and me and John decided that- that wouldn’t workin’ out; we had to get somebody else. So that was two years wasted right there, so you can see how eight years – boom, boom, boom – goes by, ‘cause, you know, you got two years wasted on that and another year rehearsing and getting it back up to par with the new guys again, so, yeah. Just stupid little things kept getting in the way.
Did you ever think about quitting the band?
No, I never had that thought at all. I don’t think me and John ever thought about giving it up, it’s just we knew it was in the closet, you know; one of these days we’ll get it out, wash it, and wear it again. So yeah, that was never a thought.
But were you somehow disillusioned about the record labels as you were switching from Roadrunner to Pavement to Massacre Records? Were you somehow disappointed by the record labels – that they were treating you so badly?
Well, no, not so much with Pavement. Pavement was having financial problems and they eventually went out of business. So that was kind of a thing they said, you know, for us, it’s like, “Hey guys, you know, you might want to start looking for another label because we don’t know if we’re going to be around.” So, you know, that was a good thing, instead of just going, “Oh, we’re out of business; sorry, guys.” ‘Cause they knew we were working on new material. So it all worked out for the better.
You just played in Poland and released a live album - HOUR OF DESPAIR - on DVD. How did this happen – the whole recording of the DVD? And was it the guy from Poland who came up with the idea, “Okay, let’s do a DVD now” or ?
I kinda remember if- when we remastered everything that went through Metal Mind Productions and so I think then the guy was also thinking, okay we have quote, unquote “new material,” they don’t have a live DVD and I think he just approached us and said, “Hey, you know, we’re setting this up, we want to do this,” so yeah, we went to Poland for the weekend or so and did the DVD. That’s all there was too it.
That’s all done?
I noticed that there have been a lot line-up changes. As you said, people left and some got married, had kids, stuff like that. What happened? Because Edgar Rivera left the band all of a sudden and also Kurt Joye, who founded Solitude Aeturnus.
Well, actually, John Perez was the founder. Lyle was the first one of all of us to step in, and then it was me and then Edgar. But he just got sick of it and wanted to play something different, so he just left and, you know, that wasn’t really a problem, you know – get another bass player. But then it was- that was when, during those eight years, I think Edgar just decided that he just didn’t care about playing music anymore. And so, you know, that was one of the other things, you know, “Oh crap, now Edgar’s gone.” But, yeah, I really don’t know; I haven’t spoke to him in probably ten years, so I have no clue. He’s hard to get a hold of, so I just don’t bother. He knows where I am.
Yeah – yeah, it does. It does.
When Solitude Aeturnus was on hold, you had another band: Concept of God.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Could you tell more about it?
That was just something that me and Steve want to- When Solitude got lazy, we didn’t want to quit playing. So, I mean, it was the three of us from Solitude: it was me, Steve, and John Covington. So I just came up with the name and I already had a lot of material already written, you know, as far as some music and lyrics. So we just put that together so we could, you know, keep playing gigs and then we ended up putting it out on vinyl – so to speak. But I don’t think there’s going to be another Concept of God with that line-up because I’m probably going to do something different and it’s going to be totally different from what they’ll want to do, so I’ll probably just come out with something else on my own…someday…maybe.
THE VOICE OF DOOM
Your trademark voice has created the sound of Solitude Aeturnus and now Candlemass. How do you keep your voice in good shape and do you have some kind of practice methods for keeping your voice sharp all the time? Or is it just natural like Dio?
You know, I don’t know. I don’t really- I don’t really do anything – and I don’t want to sound pompous about it because I’m grateful – but I mean, I honestly don’t do anything. The only thing I really do is like, when I know we’re going to be playing or we’re going to be doing a few shows, I usually stay in the hotel room and just rest all day and just don’t talk and then-
Now you’re talking.
Now I’m talking. But yeah, I just try not to, especially when we’re on the road. I just would lay in the bunk all day and try not to go out- well, I say not go out and get fucked up; I got drunk probably every night but- I went out partying and hollering and screaming. But, yeah, that’s about it, man; I just try and save it when I have to.
When you’re doing Candlemass songs or doing songs with Solitude Aeturnus, do you have to make some changes in your voice or do you keep singing in the Robert Lowe style?
Yeah, the Rob style. No, I don’t really make many changes – I don’t make any conscious efforts, I just do what I’ve always done for either band and- There’s a lot of stuff with Solitude Aeturnus, obviously, where I sing a lot higher than I do in Candlemass – that’s the only other change I really have to make. And sometimes, like, a lot of the older Solitude Aeturnus stuff, the voice is more clear without an edge on it, you know. So yeah, there’s nothing really conscious I have to change.
Does smoking cigarettes help your voice?
Oh yeah. I thought I’d go through a pack a day just to make sure I’m in good shape.
You’re like King Diamond.
Yeah, I forgot about that.
Actually, you toured with King Diamond, right?
Um-hmm. Yeah, back in ’95- ’96 I think it was.
How was it?
It was a great tour. You know, obviously I didn’t see him much, but the other guys in the band were great. You know, you had Hank and Sharlee and I forget who was playing drums.
It was Mercyful Fate?
Yeah, it was the Mercyful Fate tour; they just done the King Diamond thing and then they did that. So yeah, that was nice, you know, because obviously we were Mercyful Fate fans too so we got to see a lot of the old stuff with the original guys pretty much.
Are you somehow influenced by King Diamond?
I never was, no.
Or is it Dio and Bruce Dickinson and stuff like that?
Maybe Dickinson and Dio more so. And I- you know, I’ve always been a fan of Klaus Meine of the Scorpions, you know.
The early Scorpions?
Oh, definitely. It stops at Blackout. Nothing after Blackout. The debut album is one of my favourites, you know, “Speedy’s Coming,” “Lonesome Crow” – that’s Scorpions.
But you don’t care about these death metal vocal styles ?
No, no, I’m not really impressed with that; it doesn’t do anything for me. I mean, their music can be great but then, as soon as they start doing that, it’s like, “Jesus Christ!” Because, you know, there’s enough of that now. I mean, every band out there nowadays, that seems to be- that’s the norm. About done?
What are you going to do after the Candlemass show? Getting drunk?
Oh, well, sure! Hell yeah! I don’t how drunk ‘cause we got to get up early tomorrow morning to go to Barcelona. So I don’t know; we’ll see.
Welcome to Finland and have a nice gig.
All right, man; thanks. I’m gonna step outside and have a smoke.