It is time to once again talk to band leader and guitarist Lars Chriss from the band Lion’s Share who have finally released the brilliant new album DARK HOURS. Lars has already done a shorter interview in metal-rules.com but here comes a longer one. We talked about the new album, new label, live shows and many other things.
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Lars Chriss for doing the interview with me.
Thanks to Blistering Records for the promo pictures of the band all pictuers taken by: Hanna Axelsson-Fresse
Hi Lars, it’s been quite a while since we last spoke but now that you’re back with the brilliant new Lion’s Share album I feel it’s time for an update. Are you ready?
The new Lion’s Share album is called DARK HOURS and it was recently released, how long did it take you to write and to record the album?
We recorded it in different sessions during 2008. We recorded rhythm guitars and some lead vocals already in March/April I think. Then we did a spring tour and some festivals and went back in the studio in between. The mix was done at the end of the year.
Does the title have any special meaning to you? Why did you name the album DARK HOURS?
All lyrics are about big events that took place in 1968 or around there. We were looking for an album title that reflected that decade basically.
All of the three guys in the band have written the material on the album, how does it work to co-write with the other two members? Who does what in the process?
We get along great. All three were born just three months apart so we have more or less the same influences and memories from growing up etc. Sampo and I wrote the music first and then Patrik and I worked out the vocal melodies and then Patrik wrote the lyrics. We had the same vision so it was a very pleasant process making this album.
Do you see any problems with having three minds involved in the writing process?
No not at all. We all know what Lion’s Share is about and anything that doesn’t fit will be scrapped or used in side projects.
I felt that you previous album EMOTIONAL COMA was a little rawer and harder than your other albums, do you think that you have maintained the more edgier sound picture that you had on EMOTIONAL COMA on DARK HOURS?
I think it’s a natural evolution of our sound and style. I look at these two albums as sister albums. Pretty much like Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules or DIO Holy Diver and The Last In Line.
EMOTIONAL COMA was released two years ago, what have the members in Lion’s Share been up to?
We have played quite a bit live and worked on new material. Emotional Coma was the foundation that we are now building on. We know each other even better now after one album and several live shows under our belt, and I think that’s why the new album turned out so great.
The cover art work of the new disc is made by Robert Sammelin, what do you think of the cover? Do you think it reflects the music well?
We love it! He did a great job on Emotional Coma too but this is even better.
What do you think of DARK HOURS compared to the previous albums with Lion’s Share?
I think it’s the best one so far. The songwriting and musicianship has never been better. I also think it’s our best sounding album so far and the best cover artwork. I mean this is how it should be anyway. You do the best you can every time but hopefully you keep practicing and get better and better with every new release. The day you can’t top yourself it’s probably a good idea to pack it in. This doesn’t mean I’m not proud of the old records. They all are a piece of the Lion’s Share puzzle and pretty much show my personal evolution both as a guitarist and songwriter.
The line-up in the band has been solid for quite a while now, is it easy to work with the rest of the guys in the band if you compare them with other line-ups that has passed through Lion’s Share?
The current lineup was handpicked by me with a certain sound in mind and we spent a lot of time together before we went out officially with the lineup. It’s much harder when you first put a band together from scratch. You don’t have a style or anything so it’s more by chance if it works out on so many different levels. Also when you’re younger, things change much more in your life. You start out as some kids and then girlfriends and children and even day job careers come in the picture. I’m very happy with Patrik and Sampo and we have worked together since 2004 now.
Just as on the last album you are also this time featured guest appearances by well known names like Michael Romeo (Symphony X). New drummer is Conny Petterson (Anata) and your old drummer Richard Evensand only plays the drums on the bonus track, why have you switched drummers?
We don’t have a permanent drummer. We are a trio. Richard fit perfect in LS and we love him, but he moved to Australia to get married so unfortunately he couldn’t do Dark Hours or any live shows with us. We actually prefer the freedom of using different drummers depending on the song, album or tour. Another member also means another will when it comes to the music and another business partner and at this point we don’t wanna mess with our chemistry and balance.
What’s the biggest difference between the two drummers?
Richard is much more all-round and handles the heavy, Sabbath 70s stuff as well as the top modern high energy drumming. Conny is a death metal drummer who is more skilled at the faster, modern high energy drumming. Both are killer drummers though. Lion’s Share actually covers quite a wide range of styles, so all musicians in this band must be able to cover many different angles.
You had more guest appearances on the previous album compared to on this new disc, why?
We had two guest solos on Emotional Coma (Bruce Kulick from KISS and Glen Drover from Megadeth) and one (Michael Romeo from Symphony X) on Dark Hours. It’s not that we need any extra help in this area anyways so it was more like the opportunity was there. It’s just a cool thing and a chance for me to shine and show people I can match these guys Ha Ha.
Were you friends with Romeo from earlier? How did he end up on DARK HOURS?
It was our US label office that suggested it since they are friends with him. I’ve met both Bruce and Glen but never Mike. They all did a great job.
You also did a cover on the last album but not this time, how come?
We originally did “Sorcerers” for an Angel Witch tribute that never happened. We thought it turned out so great plus that we managed to turn it in to a Lion’s Share song, so we decided to include it on EC.
You have shot a video to the song “Judas Must Die” what can you tell us about the video?
It was directed by the same guy that did “The Edge Of The Razor” from the last album. This time we worked with a green screen and he featured some old black and white movie clips to reflect some of the lyrics.
Were there many songs that didn’t made in on to the final edition of DARK HOURS?
We wrote many songs for Emotional Coma. Some ended up on Dark Hours and some are still sitting in the vaults. I don’t think we finished any songs written for Dark Hours that didn’t make the album. We have plenty of riffs that could be turned into songs though.
Did you rehearse a lot before you went into the studio and recorded the album?
We always rehearse on our own. We also did shows in between the studio sessions so we were in great shape during the recordings.
What do you think the fans are gonna think about DARK HOURS?
They love it and so does the critics!
Have you read any reviews of DARK HOURS yet? What have the media to say about it?
We got voted “album of the month” in Scandinavia’s biggest metal magazine Sweden Rock Magazine. Reviews all around Europe were great too and we made it Top 2 or at least Top 10 in most European magazines. In the US we did great in the “metal radio charts” and the video has played on over 100 stations over there. Reviews and reactions from Japan have been great and now we are looking forward to the Russian release date.
Is it hard for the members to come together and rehearse with the thought of that you don’t live in the same city?
We only rehearse as a band when we have shows coming up. Me, Sampo and the “live drummer” lives in Stockholm, so we can rehearse as much as needed and then Patrik comes down for one or two rehearsals and that’s all we need.
Have you have a release party for DARK HOURS? If so when and where was it held and how did it go?
We played a release show in Stockholm and the place was packed. We sold tons of CD’s too.
How would you in your own words like to describe what kind of music Lion’s Share plays today?
I think we have our roots in the classic metal without sounding dated in any way. We have the precision, energy and production from the modern metal and the song structures and melodies from the classic era. We are a riff based band. Like a mix of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Megadeth if you like, but with a twist from newer stuff like Soilwork, In Flames, Marilyn Manson, Symphony X etc. Have a listen at www.myspace.com/lionsshare
Your new label has released “Judas Must Die” as a CDS but only for downloading, how do you feel about that?
It’s a complement to the video so it makes sense it’s the same song. We are giving it away for free at www.blisteringrecords.se
Do you have any particular song on the album that’s your personal favorite?
I like the album as a whole and think each song has its place on the album. I like to play the album from start to finish.
Are there any plans on shooting more videos to any of the songs?
Not at this point. Many would like to see “Heavy Cross To Bear” as the next single though. We’ll see.
There are a bunch of stuff featured on the digipack version of DARK HOURS, what can you tell us about that material?
We made a small documentary about the “making of…”. A slightly different version of the video for Judas is on there. The European DigiPak also has a bonus track called “King Of All The Kings”. There are five different versions of the album available depending on the territory.
Axelsson is listed on keyboards on the disc, have you used a lot of keyboards in the music this time?
Not a lot. We use guitars as much as possible but sometimes “spice up” a song with keyboards to create a certain mode or feeling if the song calls for it.
As always is Johansson doing an amazing job on the album, you must be really happy to have manage to recruit him to the position as singer in your band?
Both Patrik and I think he’s done his best vocal performance ever on this album. For some reason he always brings out that little extra in Lion’s Share.
I also think that the guitar play is really fierce and edgy this time around, how have you managed to deliver such heavy guitar riffs?
I keep practicing and I like everybody else see a progression from album to album. I’ve worked hard to create some kind of “Lars Chriss sound”, both as a rhythm and lead guitar player. The best compliment I can get is when people say they hear it’s me playing without knowing beforehand. There are some samples of solos available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwZSIY0ym_w
You have once again co-produced the album together with Axelsson, what’s it like to produce your own band? Isn’t it hard to be objective?
No, I’m used to it after eight albums. I’ve always managed to be able to look at the whole picture. I prefer to work with a top notch engineer instead, but some albums I’ve mixed myself as well like for example ROAD TO RUIN.
The albums were recorded in LS Studio and in Hit Men Studio, where are the studios located?
In Stockholm, Sweden
And the drums were recorded in Studio Mega, where is that studio located?
In Varberg, Sweden.
What did you record first of all, drums, vocals or anything else?
I usually start with the rhythm guitars since I prefer to play to a super tight drum machine and very loud cowbell clicktrack.
Jens Bogren (Opeth, Symphony X, Paradise Lost, Amon Amarth etc) has done the mixing/mastering in Fascination Street Studio, are you happy with his work? And were any of the members in the band attending when he did his job?
Jens did a brilliant job. Yes, we were there and when we were not he uploaded the mixes to a server so we could listen and make comments. The producer has the final call so he kept changing till we were 100% happy.
Do you enjoy producing? What do you consider being your strongest feature as producer? And are you also producing other acts besides Lion’s Share?
I have good ears and a strong opinion and vision so I like to produce and make sure the end result is to my liking. I’m a calm person with a lot of patience and I’m pretty good at pushing people to go that extra mile and top themselves. I’ve produced and mixed both AUDIOVISION “The Calling” (Mic Michaeli, Thomas Broman, Tony Franklin, Bruce Kulick, Jeff Scott Soto etc), and ROAD TO RUIN “s/t”, plus several demos besides the six LION’S SHARE albums.
You have ended your co-operation with AFM Records, why?
I got an offer to put together and run my own label by some investors. They insisted I’d bring along LS and RIIR and gave me a royalty no other label could match. I’m still very good friends with the AFM staff and we still have some projects together.
You are now signed to Blistering Records, how come you inked a deal with them and are you happy with being linked to them?
It can’t get any better than to have your band on your own label.
I haven’t hard of Blistering Records before, where are they located and what other bands do they have?
Blistering Records have distribution all over Europe and North America. Lillian Axe, Bloodbound, Glenn Hughes, The Poodles, Jorn Lande, House Of Lords etc etc. Check out www.blisteringrecords.se
Were you without a deal for a long time?
We were never out of a deal.
Were you obligated to release more albums for AFM Records or had you only signed on for one album?
We always try to make one album deal so after Dark Hours we are free again.
Is Blistering Records releasing DARK HOURS world wide or do they have various distribution labels that takes cares of that?
Blistering Records released it in North America and Europe. King Records in Japan and Soyuz Music in Russia.
Have the album been launched world wide yet? If not do you know when it’s gonna be released world wide?
It’s out now in Europe, North America and Japan. Russia will follow very soon.
What’s the biggest difference between AFM Records and Blistering Records regarding promotion etc?
I have full control over it.
Who owns the legal rights to the really old Lion’s Share albums?
I own all Lion’s Share albums.
You have also inked a deal with King Records in Asia, is Asia the next territory you’re gonna conquer?
We have released our records there since the first album. Actually our very first record deal was with Japan in 1994.
The previous album EMOTIONAL COMA went really well, could you ever imagine such a huge success with the album?
I think it was well deserved. So far it’s looking even better for Dark Hours. These two albums are a must have for any true metal fan.
Have you got any respond from the fans on DARK HOURS? What do they think about it?
Check out some great reviews here: goto.glocalnet.net/ls_army/dh_reviews.html
You did a few live shows during 2007/08 how was that? Why did you not do a proper tour on the last album?
We got some offers but there are a lot of things that must be taken under consideration. Many bands go on tour and build up a huge debt with the label that they can never recoup. We had the chance to go out with Saxon and Iced Earth but unfortunately the timing was not right. Recently we were offered the Primal Fear tour and now we are in talks with DIO. For next year we have an offer to go out with Gamma Ray. We also do our own headlining tours in Sweden every now and then.
How was it to perform at Sweden Rock Festival in 2007?
That was our comeback show with the brand new lineup. It was our third time at Sweden Rock and also the best. Great crowd and cool signing session!
You are still a trio without a solid drummer, do you have plans on taking in a guy for that position or are you gonna continue to taking in session drummers?
No plans for another member.
Do you see any difficulties in the fact that both the other members are involved in other acts besides Lion’s Share?
It’s not the ultimate scenario but it is what it is right now.
Where in the world do you think you have got your biggest fanbase?
That will be countries like USA, Sweden, Germany, Japan….
Are there any differences in how the foreign press treats you compared to the Swedish media?
Not really. We probably get some more exposure in Sweden since everybody knows about us here.
Are the first editions of the old Lion’s Share albums worth anything today?
Sure. Some more than others of course.
What do you think of the MySpace forum in the sense for unsigned and un-established artists to get out their music?
I think it’s great.
Is Lion’s Share active on MySpace?
We have a site at www.myspace.com/lionsshare
The band has also got their own fansite on MySpace called Lion’s Share Army, Lion’s Share Army has also got their own website, how does that feel and do you co-operate with them?
We love our fans and would be nothing without them. It’s an honor that someone is taking the time to do something like this. Peter who runs it saw us the first time in early 1999 and has been with us since. He’s a great guy so sign up and help support him and us. It’s for free. www.lionssharearmy.com
You have already a few shows rowed up in Sweden, who’s gonna take care of the drums when you’re playing live?
The drummer we’ve used on all Emotional Coma and Dark Hours dates is Stefan Norgren. He’s the drummer on our two songs from Magic Circle Festival on the MANOWAR DVD. Check him out at www.myspace.com/stefannorgren
Do you think that you’re gonna do more shows than the ones that scheduled for now?
We have some touring offers so anything is possible.
Are you big enough to go out as a headline act?
In some territories we already do.
I had really loved for you to do a proper tour; do you think that’s possible to do this year?
Only if we do the DIO tour.
Do you have any current plans on try to conquer the American/Canadian market?
The interest from USA is awesome. The new album already outsold EC like six times and we did very well on the radio and video charts. 48% of the traffic on www.lionsshare.org is from USA.
What’s the most common question you get from fans?
Can I have your autograph.
For those unlucky bastards who haven’t discovered the music of Lion’s Share yet, what have you to say to them?
Check out www.myspace.com/lionsshare
Do you think that Lion’s Share have gained a lot of fans with the arrival of Johansson on vocals?
Hopefully some new fans.
When can we expect to find the next Lion’s Share album out in stores?
The day we think we can top Dark Hours
Do you have any thoughts of releasing a live DVD or a live disc with Lion’s Share soon?
No not at the moment.
Give the readers three stunning reasons why they should buy DARK HOURS?
It’s a future metal classic! Go and get it! Now!!
Would you like to say something to the readers and fans? The word is yours.
Thanks for your support!
That was all for me Lars, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions again. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and I really hope to see on a stage near me soon.
Thanks to you, Anders!