Interview with Tomas Roitman of Split Heaven
Tomas Roitman from long-running Mexico metal band Split Heaven was kind enough to give us a few moments of his thoughts on being caught up in heavy metal genre, how the band is received in their homeland. His answers may surprise many.
Metal-Rules.com: Hello! This is Hellias Papadopoulos from Metal-Rules.com, I am very happy and glad for this interview and greetings from Greece! First of all, how are you doing? And where are you checking in from today?
Hello Hellias! Thanks to you for making this interview possible. Everything’s cool, rainy day here in our city Querétaro, from my Sonic Attack recording studio where the last and upcoming albums of Split Heaven are produced and of course, where we rehearsal and have some beers together!
Metal-Rules.com: To start off, let’s take a look on the latest new third album THE DEVIL’S BANDIT released four months ago. How did you come up with that? Let us know some things about the production of the album. Is it a concept one?
The main idea behind The Devil’s Bandit was to show something about our new sound because we were introducing Giancarlo as our new front man, and image, this idea came out when we returned from our 2012 tour in Europe and played our first gig at Germany’s Swordbrother’s Festival where we appeared on the stage with Mexican sombreros and tequila.
The whole production took like 6 months; we always wanted to have more time for making a CD, because with the first two we were recording in other studios where we couldn’t find a sound that convinced us at 100%. Of course we like Psycho Samurai and Street Law, but now with Sonic Attack, we think we can have a proper and better sound that can take us to next levels to compete in the heavy metal globe.
Regarding the new album, yes, it is a concept album and we are going to follow this line, at least for the next one, but that we’ll keep it as something private for now haha.
Metal-Rules.com: What’s the new thing THE DEVIL’S BANDIT brings on in compare to the previous albums?
First of all, we have a better singer who speaks and pronounces English very good; Giancarlo has given us more tools to compose aggressive and melodic songs, a thing that in my opinion was a little bit lost in the past years, because some ex members didn’t remembered that Split Heaven is heavy metal, fortunately, we are on the same highway to hell now. Second, the production, composition and execution have been polished, without having a very modern sound, this helps to make an album more enjoyable from our point of view. Some people can like this or not, but we are not going to please everybody, we just want to play our metal the way we want it.
Metal-Rules.com: What does future hold for Split Heaven? Tour? Please give us some specific near-future schedule.
Yes, we have an upcoming Tour in Europe in July, playing at BÄÄÄM Festival in Germany with bands like Grave Digger, Freedom Call, Metal Inquisitor, Cage, etc. and supporting Cage in gigs in Holland, Belgium and Germany with Javelyn (Germany) as openers. The tour schedule so far is the following…
Metal-Rules.com: Can you describe the experience of playing with Split Heaven with only one word? And why?
“CHINGÓN!” This one actually just came out from Carlo Hernández (guitar player) who I am with right now and he’s turning 28 today Cheers for that! What “chingón” means is a Mexican expression of something very cool, kick ass or amazing. Why? Because it is! Haha Its friendship, rock N’ roll and enjoying life through heavy metal \m/
Metal-Rules.com: I am aware of the separation of SH and Pedro Zelbohr. How do you feel on that? How did you hook up with Pablo Ollervides?
Hard one! First time on answer this question. At the beginning I felt like shit, he was my best friend, we formed the band together and I still feel betrayed, I can’t deny it. But, this is the best thing that could happen to us, this just make Split Heaven stronger and its like going away from the hospital after a surgery, we eradicated a disease that was killing the good vibe and energy that we always have. Its history now and we need to move on and continue the heavy metal way. Pablo is a long time friend of mine, I met him in college and he’s a hell of a bassist and good fella. The guys have made click since the first time we drank a beer together, he was fan of Split Heaven and the sound is more powerful than ever so we can’t ask for more. Now we are preparing for our first live shows with him, we rehearsal a lot, we can’t wait to hit the stages on May here in Mexico!
Metal-Rules.com: You have been around for 10 years. Have your purposes been achieved? Did your dreams come true or? Is anything that you would like to do and you couldn’t do before? In other words, did Split Heaven get to their peak spot?
Honestly, we couldn’t ask for more, so far our dreams have become a reality. We have went to Wacken in 2009 being the first Mexican band ever to play there, went to Brazil in 2010, to Europe in 2012 and now 2014, played several times in our country with great festivals such as Vive Latino and being openers for international bands, recorded 3 official albums and believe me, there’s more to come! Split Heaven have not reached yet the peak spot, this is the beginning of a long journey, as far as the universe allows us to. Of course there’s a lot of things we want to do, we think our best album haven’t seen the light yet, we haven’t played on the US or Asia for example. For us is just a matter of friends having fun and show the world a little bit of us through heavy metal music.
Metal-Rules.com: When writing, are you primarily concerned with song structure? Riffs? Overall feel?
Feeling, if it sounds metal and we think the riff has potential to become a song, we work from there until we finish the structure. We have been working on two new songs now, this is because as you know we had a line up change some weeks ago, and its very cool to find out a new way to write songs with fresh ideas that have been kept in the vault for years and they are now about to see the light. The chemistry between us is cooler than ever and for sure it will sound better, Carlo playing the guitar has more freedom to go crazy, Armand is more comfortable and for sure is a great mix of two fucked up minds!
Metal-Rules.com: Split Heaven has been playing for the past 10years. I’m sure you had many difficulties throughout this time… What makes you always keep pushing forward?
Yeah, the road is full of challenges, but if you are playing this game you can’t expect everything will be simple. If you think easy is the way, you are a loser, throwing the towel is just not the way out in any aspect of life. All of us love heavy metal, playing live, forgetting about our normal lives and letting ourselves go for those moments in the stage, having fun together, traveling around the world, this is what keeps us alive, its music and as AC / DC say: It’s a long way to the top if you want to Rock N’ Roll!
Metal-Rules.com: Yourmusic has a very specific sound. After twenty years, do you find it challenging to innovate within that rather strict definition of what your music is?
Thanks for that! I think it is really difficult to find your own sound in a music that has been played for a very long time; we are not thinking on innovating, just to leave some history behind us, a kind of legacy. Of course we want to improve our sound in every record, in terms of production and composition; every CD has its mood, vibe and energy, so we respect what we are feeling in those moments and that is what is important.
Metal-Rules.com: What’s your main influences on you as a musician?
Whoa, well, a lot hahaha. I hear a lot of heavy metal from around the world; I like other styles like acid jazz, funk, disco and classic rock. Talking about metal… I’m not into death, thrash, black, etc… I like only heavy, power and speed. Practically my influences come from bands with good drummers haha. For example, Metal Church, for me one of the best metal bands ever, Kirk Arrington knew how to fuckin smash the drums. Running Wild is another great band on my list, although Rolf Kasparek have had lots of drummers, he is a metal master! I need to mention of course Ronnie James Dio with a beast like VinnyAppice behind the band, early Helloween with double bass animal Ingo Schwichtenberg, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, OzzyOsbourne, Thin Lizzy, UFO, Blue Oyster Cult, Queensryche, Crimson Glory, Stryper, Riot, Seikima II, Grave Digger, Accept, Iced Earth, Tad Morose, Morgana Lefay, Omen, fuck, the list is endless! I’m always discovering underground old heavy metal and you find gems like Griffin, Leatherwolf, Gravestone, Hitman, Embargo, Ritual Steel, Metal Inquisitor, Mad Max, Salem’s Wych, Ossian, Noisehunter, VeniDomineand again… the list is endless! Haha \m/
Metal-Rules.com: Could you tell me some info about your warm up technique before the show?
As a drummer you need to be prepared for cramps haha so no beer or alcohol before a show, also no spicy or heavy meals (damn I’m Mexican!) and most important: to have good stamina and not lose your temper because the drum kit at the venue sucks! Also some paradiddle exercises and stretching of arms, torso and legs
Metal-Rules.com: What do you think of today’s music industry in general?
It’s a difficult subject because people in general are not buying music; you have everything on the Internet and I really believe that it’s a matter of culture and idiosyncrasy. When you travel around the world, you obviously realize that every country and continent is different but at the same time you find people who are willing to support your band and I could describe that just like “Heavy Metal Brotherhood”. I mean, you just can’t always complain about people not buying your music or liking it, it is what it is and you have to be grateful with what you have, otherwise, be a emo and commit suicide haha. So, yes, it could be better in terms of money but to play your music and to have 10 or 10,000 people in front of you liking what they hear, its priceless.
Metal-Rules.com: Is technology part of your life or are you still a “romantic”?
Yes, it’s a part of my and our life as a band. We try to make our records like the 70’s or 80’s but being realistic that’s just not feasible. I have my studio and we record everything here since The Devil’s Bandit, for the next album we’re going to record drums and some vocals in other studios with rooms that have been built specially for that so we can have a better and “bigger” sound, but to achieve that, we need to save some money haha. From my point of view, you have to take the best of all recording eras to create a great production in terms of sound, of course, if you can afford it.
Metal-Rules.com: What separates music that is worth listening to from that which is not?
It’s a matter of personal taste, for me you can’t say, “this sucks” about art as many people do, you only can say, “I don’t like it” or something like that. Everyone has the right to compose music, paint, write, etc. When ego, rivalries, envy or egoism invade the environment, that’s where is better to stay away haha.
Metal-Rules.com: One of the last trends in music business is iTunes. More and more metal bands sell albums through this way. What’s your opinion on that?
It is good, you reach more people and new generations who doesn’t know your band or maybe who prefers to listen music on their car, iPods, computers, etc. Personally, I brought the Stalingrad album of Accept on iTunes and I regret haha, this is because I don’t have the physical booklet, the smell of the new CD, cassetteor vinyl, or the noise of the turntable needle or your old cassette player. I’m only 27 but yes I had records on cassette and I still buy vinyl.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you know any Greek heavy metal acts? Are there any Greek metal bands that you really like or want to share the stage with? Rotting Christ, Septicflesh, Firewind and Gus G. ,Nightrage to name a few.
To be honest, I’m not too familiarized with Greek bands, although I know Greece has one of the most loyal fans in the world and love heavy metal and football! (like myself). Of course I know Rotting Christ, Firewind and Gus G, also one “new” band called Suicidal Angels who play pretty good. Instead of sharing stage, I would love to play a jam one day with Gus G but I think Ozzy would charge me for that hahaha.
Metal-Rules.com: What do you think of today’s music industry in general? Do you believe that illegal downloading harms album sales or you accept the fact that the real fans will go anyway to get the new CD or vinyl regardless of the ‘free’ illegal way?
Yes, illegal downloading does harm the music sales and I don’t believe too much on the real fan thing of buying the CD when they like it, not anymore. Maybe 5 years ago yes, but this has lost control and very few people care about having a CD on their collection. Maybe in Japan, the US or Europe you find this more often than Latin America, unfortunately. As I said before, is a matter of culture and idiosyncrasy.
Metal-Rules.com: Heavy metal changes throughout the decades. Heavy and Thrash metal dominated the 80’s, there was Death, Black and Power metal in 90’s, and Metalcore and Nu Metal in the 00’s. 2010 was the beginning of the new decade. What do you see for the future?
Electro metal, cumbia metal, reggae metal, reggaeton metal, Shakira metal, yes… this will happen. Here in Mexico we already have pop artists who have turned into what they call “metal” and it is a joke, a lot of people really believe that they are heavy metal or cool! Yes, they have the right but c’mon! Nothing more to say,haha.
Metal-Rules.com:Which big metal loss affected you the most?
Ronnie James Dio. I had the fortune to see him on stage twice, one in Mexico City and with Heaven and Hell when we played Wacken 2009. That H & H concert made me cry like a baby, I was shocked about the performance of 4 guys sounding like mighty Gods. I will always remember that with joy, nostalgia and every feeling that existhaha.
Metal-Rules.com: Split Heaven is one of the fewest Mexican bands that have done things outside their country! But how the band is received in Mexico?
Playing outside Mexico is one of the best things that had happened to us and we love to keep doing it! We love to play in our country, the metal scene is not too big and sometimes you keep struggling with unprofessional things but is part of the deal of playing a not so popular kind of music; we have learned that. As far as I know, people have a very good impression about Split Heaven and they like the band, we always send our merchandise when we play live so that’s a good thing. We aren’t famous but we have gained respect of people, promoters, festivals, etc. and that’s what matters. Split Heaven always give 200% on the stage because we love it and because there is always new fans! Last year we played on the biggest music festival in Latin America called Vive Latino, lots of people reached the stage while we were playing and after the show all the press, radio and TV media made us all the interviews possible (a thing that most of small and specially metal bands don’t get) we spent 6 hours in a row doing them and we were really shocked about the response and of course very happy. This is what we live for, those moments where you reach people with your music and most of all, with heavy metal!
Metal-Rules.com: What was the most difficult thing in doing the metal music breakthrough?
Maybe trying to get original CD’s when I was young, you really didn’t had too many alternatives and in our small city it was difficult to know people of your age who liked metal music.
Metal-Rules.com: If you could pick only one musician to work with that you did not collaborate with in the past, who would that be and why?
Tough one! :/ Damn there are so many guitarists, bassists or singers… haha I hate this! Mmmmm, I will pick LemmyKilmister because I think Motorhead’s is one of the roughest and honest you can hear, not to mention the stories and parties you can have with him hahaha.
Metal-Rules.com: What elements make a good song and album as well?
I think this is perception; you have to try to get in the mood of the band so you can understand completely a song or a full album. First impressions aren’t always good, but I think when you hear more than 5 times a song or an album it is because you definitely like it!
Metal-Rules.com: After 10 year of creative success with Split Heaven and musicians, do you feel at the most accomplished stage of your career yet? Although there is more of SH to come, are you more polished and secure than ever?
We still have so much work to do with the new line up, but I can say that we feel very comfortable and confident now. The years help on getting experience and to enjoy more the work of the band, we have learned a lot from the past and its time to capture this on a new album. We are coming harder and heavier so prepare for more Split Heaven!
Metal-Rules.com: Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:
Favorite TV series:The Sopranos.
Spending all the money in Strip show:LOL
Wille The Coyote and The Roadrunner:Hilarious.
Metal-Rules.com: Top five metal bands:
You kill me on this one…
- Black Sabbath
- Thin Lizzy
- Judas Priest
- Iron Maiden
Metal-Rules.com: Top Cons of Metal:
- Killswitch Engage
- Bullet For My Valentine
- Steel Panther, Every Nu Metal/ Hardcore / Emo band that make stupid screams and have an unreadable logo.
Metal-Rules.com: Thank you for your time and this interview. I wish you and the rest guys of your band all the best!!!
Thanks to you brother, it’s a real pleasure to answer your questions and on behalf of Split Heaven, thanks to all the Metal-Rules crew and we wish you the best, long live to you guys. Feel free to contact us whenever you want J Best wishes from these Mexican heavy metal maniacs!