Original member/guitarist Scott Leach – Crystal Ball
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Tom Hack for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Massacre Records for providing the promo pics.
The melodic metal act Crystal Ball comes from Switzerland and released their come back album DAWNBREAKER at the end of last year. The band was put to rest in 2007 but they are back for the attack with an amazing album. The band has a new singer, bass player and guitarist and I was curious to hear what they are up to now. I hooked up with original member/guitarist Scott Leach to hear about their plans for the future as well as what happened in the band camp the past years. We also dissected DAWNBREAKER which is produced and mixed/mastered by the well known Stefan Kaufmann (ex-Accept). Crystal Ball are now out on tour with Swedish melodic hard rock act The Poodles, and later this year are they going to hook up with the Swiss legends Krokus and head out on tour. Enjoy….
How come you and drummer Marcel Sardella re-formed the band again?
We never really “stopped“ but it just took a long time, until the circumstances were right and everything was ready to comeback again. We were still hungry and never planed on quitting.
Is it correct that the band was put on ice after the release of the album SECRETS from 2007? Why did you guys take a break?
After the release of Secrets many things went wrong. For instance a big tour in Switzerland got canceled. Our keyboarder left the band just shortly after joining and being introduced in the video „it’s not love“. And many others things went wrong, regarding the business side. So were kind of fed up after all these years of work we seemed to be stuck. So we decided to take a break to regain our energy and the fun in music. What have you and Sardella been up to these past few years?
First we experienced the benefit of having a private life for once. We’ve been busy for ten years in a row before so we enjoyed some time off. But it wasn’t that long. We have both been involved in other projects too. And form 2010 we were busy looking for a new singer.
Is it you and Sardella who own the band name?
Yes, because we’re the last ones left.
Did you ask the guys in the former line-up if they wanted to re-join forces again?
Well, the part of singer was clearly open since Mark left the band in 2010. At first we were working with Hungi Berglas (guitar) and Sven Sieber (bass) who were still part of the line-up since 2007. They were steady members of the band since then and we wanted to continue working with them. We did all the vocals auditions-session with them.
When we finally found the right person we wanted to pick up the intensity to push Crystal Ball forward again. But they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) keep up with that new pace. We knew that Tom and Dany (the original members) didn’t want to join again because of their private lives.
Tell us a little about the new band members. Who are they and have they been involved in any well known bands prior to Crystal Ball?
Steven Mageney is our new singer. He is from Wuppertal, Germany which is about 600km away from us. We met through Facebook. I drove to Germany to see a show of his cover band Bourbon Stree (which is still active). After that I invited him for a live session and some studio recordings to Switzerland. It became clear very quickly that he was the right guy for us.
Markus Flury started out a Crystal Ball’s bass player. Even though he is a guitarist too. He also plays bass for Charring Cross. When we had to look for a new guitar player, it was the best thing for him to switch back to guitar and we had to find a new bass player. So it happened that Cris Stone on bass joined the band he was the latest new member. He played with Stoneman before.
What does new singer Mageney have that the old one Sweeney didn’t have?
He makes the most of every note he sings. It’s not about how high one sings but about the “feeling” and the “sound”. In our opinion he’s the better choice for Crystal Ball. He has a great sounding voice that fit’s our music. Most fans agreed on this. He has also great technical abilities, lot’s of feeling and he’s a great frontman and nice band-mate.
What does the old members think of the new edition of the band?
I don’t know, you would have to ask them yourself.
You and Sardella come from Switzerland but do the rest of the members also come from the same country as you?
Steven is from Germany (Wuppertal). The rest of the the band is from Switzerland, based around Lucerne.
New album DAWNBREAKER
How long has it taken to write and record the album?
A little more than a year. We had a couple of songs ready before we’ve found Steven but we were finishing the songs with him to make him part of it and to have his influence on the album.
Who writes the material and what are the lyrics about?
On this album I wrote most of the basic ideas, Steven contributed most of the vocals lines. But also Marcel came up with ideas and so did Markus who brought in two more songs. The lyrics are about all kinds of stuff mostly personal experiences, hopes, wishes, pain, love and so on.
Where does the title DAWNBREAKER come from?
We were looking for a title to symbolize our situation the re-start of the band. So I was playing around with different ideas and DAWNBREAKER was the result.
The cover art work is made by Thomas Ewerhard. What do you think of it? What was the thought behind the cover?
He did a great job with the artwork. I came up with the concept and the draft for it, though. The artwork had to follow the title, which was first. So it had visualize the title … the dawning … and the „breaking“ (the exploding) planet. DAWNBRAKER
Do you think that fans of the older albums are going to like this new one?
I’m sure, because it has all the components Crystal Ball stands for. It’s just fresher and with more energy than ever. You can hear the motivation and the good band-feeling.
Do you think that the band has gone through any musical changes or developments since the last time you were around? If so, in what way?
It’s always more of an unconscious process. Because we had to “wait” so long there was a lot of energy and power around. I think this had to get out and can be heard on the record. So I guess it sounds a little heavier then the last record but not in general. The TIMEWALKER album was also quite heavy. The vocals are certainly the biggest difference on the new record and I think it’s a big step forward.
The band released a download single in “Anyone Can Be A Hero” what did the fans think of the song?
We got very good reactions to this song. Melodic and heavy at the same time. And with all the Crystal Ball trademarks.
The band shot videos to “Anyone Can Be A Hero” and “Eternal Flame” what can you tell us about the videos?
It was really important to us to make a strong impact with this comeback album. Especially since we have a new singer and 2 more new members the band has a completely different face now. So we wanted to introduce the new band not only musically but also visually. That’s why we decided to make this clip and also the 2nd clip to Eternal Flame. No one looks at a picture while listening to song. So I’m sure the video helps to establish the band.
CRYSTAL BALL Eternal Flame Videoclip
I saw that the video to “Anyone Can Be A Hero” have been shown over 31000 times in Youtube, congratulations.
Thank you very much. We are really happy with success of the video. Meanwhile it’s around 46000 plays.
CRYSTAL BALL Anyone Can Be A Hero Videoclip
Are there plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs?
It’s not decided yet it might happen … or it might not. Videos at this quality level are quite expensive. So we’ll see what happens after touring.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Crystal Ball plays?. Personally I’d say your music are melodic metal.
To me personally it’s more Melodic hardrock with some metal influences. But names are really not important to us. The main thing that is the people like it.
On the limited digipack version of the album there are two bonus songs featured. What are the songs called and are there any more bonus stuff featured on the disc?
The two bonus tracks are: “Bond of love” and “Touch the sky”. We had a really hard time deciding which songs to choose as bonus tracks. So those song are as good as the others. Definitely no fillers. There’s no not bonus material on the digipack.
Knut Spindeldreher and Stefam Kaufmann makes guest appearances on two songs. Which songs and how did they end up on the album?
Knut Spindeldreher is a friend of Steven. He played the Intro and the keys for “Sun came out”. He was also already involved in the preproduction. Steven recored some vocals at his homestuido, because he lives close to him.
Stefan Kaufmann played slide guitar on „Skin to skin“. He had this idea in studio and played it for me. Then I said: You played it just great, the way it should be, .. just record it. It was his feeling and I didn’t want to change it.
Have you read any reviews of the album in the media? Do you and the band care about what critics have to say about your work?
I read quite a lot and most of it are really positive which is great. You always care what people think of your work. I think it’s not possible to “not care”. But one single critic is not so important so I’m not depressed if somebody says it’s average. It’s also a matter of taste. It’s the mass that counts and the majority very positive.
You threw a release party for the album how was that? Did you perform live?
Yes, it was great to finally present our music live. We played in our hometown Lucerne, which was also special for us. We played quite a long setlist that evening.
In retrospect, are you happy with the outcome of DAWNBREAKER or do you feel you should have done anything in a different way?
We’re still happy with the result. Of course you’ll always have some details in mind. But what counts is the overall feeling. Maybe you have to ask me again after the next record, ha ha.
I think the album is brilliant and jammed with some really good music. I’m especially impressed with the work of singer Mageney, you and guitarist Flury. Are you happy with the work the rest of the members put into the album?
Thank you very much. Yes, everybody did a great job.
With DAWNBREAKER you tied the knot with record label Massacre Records how did you chose to ink a deal with them?
The connection was made through our management. But I guess the main point was that the A&R manager remembered us because we’re were opening up for Pretty Maids a couple of years ago.
The previous album was released by AFM Records, how come you wanted the end the deal with them?
We didn’t want to end it. We’re surprised ourselves when we heard they did want to release the new album. But it’s good as it is now.
Are you happy with the work your label has put into the band and the album so far?
Yes, because we are not just a number there. They put in lots of effort.
Studio and production
How come you wanted to record DAWNBREAKER in Roxx Studio in Solingen, Germany?
Because of our producer Stefan Kaufmann, it’s his studio.
You once again worked together with Stefan Kaufmann as producer. What’s his strongest feature as producer?
He really knows what a songs needs. And he gets the best out of every musician and every song. And he’s fun to work with.
He’s also mastered and mixed the album was any of the members part of that?
He was sending us the different mixes, and we were in constant contact. That way we could take influence and put in our wishes.
For how long did you stay in Solingen? Did you have time to see any of the town?
We weren’t there all together at the same time. We’re there in “groups”. Drummer and bassist, guitarplayers, then the vocalist, and so on. About 6 weeks in total for the recordings. We went to eat after work so we know lot’s of restaurants in Solingen now, haha. We say the HARIBO (Gummibears) factory;-). But we were staying in Wuppertal overnight which is very nice too.
Past present and future
Please tell the readers about the tattoo photo competition you have on your website. What is it?
We’ve made temporary tattoos with the Crystal Ball logo. Everybody is invited to take a picture with that tattoo and upload it to our facebook-site. They can be ordered at: email@example.com. Don’t forget you complete address including your country. There will a voting on facebook and the winner will get cool merchandise and a day with Crystal Ball.
The band did some promotional work and also some shows in Portugal before the album, how was that?
It was a really great experience and lots of fun. A good “live-test” and a starting point for the things to come. We had a great night out in Lisbon too.
You also entered the Eurovision song contest this year in Switzerland with the song “Eternal Flame” how did that go?
It was a pre-selection for Swiss finals for the ESC. They said it’s going to be a public voting. There was a voting but nobody knew how many votes they got. So in the end, it was the swiss TV-guys who decided which band got to the finals. We just wanted to be in that show which would have been great promotion for us. We didn’t expect more.
How come you entered that competition? That competition normally contains music that’s pretty far from metal and rock.
It’s was a coincidence. We just received the finished version of the video when I read about the possibility-window to join in the competition. We had one week left to apply, so we did an edit version to match the three minute-policy. It was not planned at all. But many other untypical bands like Lordi oder Wig Wam had success with it.
You and the Swedish act The Poodles are heading out on a joint tour in March in Germany and Italy, are you exited? Do you know the guys in The Poodles?
We’re really looking forward to it. We don’t know them yet but I’ve seen them live before. I’m sure we’ll have lot’s of fun.
You’re also confirmed as support act to the legendary metal act Krokus in May in Germany. It feels like the band has a lot of fun to look forward to in the near future. Are there any shows or festivals booked for the summer?
Yes, Krokus is like the battleship of Swiss Hardrock. It will be great to tour with Krokus. We toured with them before, but it was a different Krokus-line up back then. We’re working on festivals right now. So far no big names to drop yet.
Is the band active on Facebook and twitter and so on? What do you feel about the social forums of today?Is it easier for bands nowadays to keep in touch with fans worldwide? Are there any negative things about the easy access to music and bands on internet?
Yes, we’re everywhere haha. Facebook, twitter, new myspace and youtube. It’s really important nowadays. It’s easier but also a lot of effort and time. But at least we know it’s done that way. The negative side is that you’re easy accessible for freaks and stalkers too.
Crystal Ball have been called Swiss melodic metal gods, how does that feel?
To be honest a bit weird, haha.
Where in the world does the band has its biggest fanbase?
In Switzerland and Germany where we have played mostly.
Are there any interest for the band in USA/Canada and Asia?
Of course we are interested. Unfortunately that’s no help. A band need to be invited or booked to play there. We’ll see what happens.
What are the plans for the band in 2014?
First the tours that are already mentioned above. We try as much as we can this year. Later on this year we’ll focus on songwriting to prepare the new album. It should be out in 2015.
What do you want to say to the ones who haven’t discovered Crystal Ball yet?
If you like 80ies influenced melodic hardrock/metal but with a edge to it… check it out.
Could you give the readers three reason why they should buy DAWNBREAKER?
Catchy songs, unique voice, powerful productions
Is Crystal Ball here to stay this time?
We were around for 6 albums before … which is longer than many other bands anyway. Nobody knows what the future brings. We intend to be around as long as we’re having fun.
Finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with readers and fans?
A big thank you to all the supporters out there. Keep going to concerts it’s where the music comes alive. Playing live is what rockmusic is all about!
Thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and I really hope to see you on a stage near me in the future.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Facebook Page www.facebook.com/crystalballrocks
Twitter Page https://twitter.com/crystalballrock
Youtube Page www.youtube.com/user/OfficialCrystalBall
Facebook Page www.facebook.com/massacrerecordseurope
Twitter Page www.twitter.com/massacrerec
Youtube Page www.youtube.com/massacrerecords
Myspace Page www.myspace.com/massacrerecordseurope