SoulSpell Band leader/main composer and drummer Heleno Vale
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Cátia Cunha at Against PR for the help.
Thanks to Soulpell for the promo pictures of the band.
SoulSpell is back on the attack with their fourth amazing studio album titled ACT IV – THE SECOND BIG BANG, which is yet another metal opera album jammed with some great power metal music. I had the pleasure of interviewing band leader/main composer and drummer Heleno Vale who shared his thoughts about the new release. We also spoke about the cover songs the band recorded back in 2015 and why they chose those particular songs. Vale was also pretty open about his opinions towards record labels… Since I was interested in hearing more about the amazing set of guest vocalists like Timo Kotipelto, Ralf Scheepers, and Oliver Hartmann, I had Vale tell me the story behind their apperances. I suggest that after reading the intervew you should go and listen to album straight away, it’s really amazing.
Hi Heleno, thanks for once again taking the time to do this interview with me and Metal-Rules.com. Well what do you say, shall we begin?
Heleno – I thank you for the opportunity. Let’s go!
Let’s begin were we last left off we then talked about the 2012 album HOLLOW’S GATHERING. In retrospect, are you happy with that album and what did media and fans think of it?
Heleno – Ok. I’m happy with the album of course. It is a beautiful album where we can highlight many points like the beautiful and very different and innovative intro, the beautiful “A Rescue Into the Storm”, all the amazing female voices on the album, Ligia Ishitani, Daísa Munhoz, Manuela Saggioro and Amanda Somerville, all of them together in “To Crawl or to Fly”. Also, for the first time we had guests like Tim “Ripper” Owens and Blaze Bayley who did a great job and figure again on TSBB. The media and fans accepted the album well, even though it came after a big album like LABYRINTH OF TRUTHS, which people really seems to love.
During 2013 the band toured through Brazil for the third time, how was that, which vocalists were you able to bring? Any fun memories you can share with us from that tour?
Heleno – It is always very funny to be on tour with my friends. We had the pleasure to play 2 concerts with mr. Andre Matos on Metal Land Festival and Armazén Bar. We have many good memories from these concerts. In addition, we did other big festivals like BMU (Brazil Metal Union), MPB (Metal Pesado Brasileiro) and Forró da Lua Cheia. Besides that, we had the pleasure to play 2 times with Angra at Tom Brasil – São Paulo and Bazuah – São Carlos. Finally, we played at our hometown in Lençóis Paulista/SP for a selected audience of 100 people.
How many show stops did you do on the tour?
Heleno – I do not remember. We do not play many concerts because it is a very expensive as it involves many musicians, and the stage rarely bears all the 11 musicians we have for Soulspell live. We do more or less 10 concerts per tour I think. For the tour of TSBB we’ll try to do a little more.
We Got The Right (Helloween’s Tribute) video
Back in 2014 you recorded a cover of “We Got the Right” that was featured on the Brazilian tribute album to Helloween, HELLOWEN 30 YEARS TRIBUTE. Did you contribute any more covers besides that one?
Heleno – Unfortunately not, but we did many other wonderful tributes, like the complete album Ayreon – THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING in Portuguese with 1:30h of length with video and audio available on YouTube; also Celine Dion – “My Heart Will Go On” with a beautiful duet between Pedro Campos and Daísa Munhoz; Angra – “Spread Your Fire” with Tim Ripper Owens, Ralf Scheepers and Daísa Munhoz on vocals etc. We’re thinking of releasing a special and complete tribute album in the next months with maybe 10 songs of our influences.
Speaking of the “My Heart Will Go On” and its accompanying video, how come you chose that song to cover?
Heleno – Well, Celine Dion is one of my favorite singers as well as a big influence for Soulspell female vocal lines. I never hide from anyone that my influences include Michael Jackson, Tears For Fears, Celine Dion and many other pop musicians. In our cover album, you will certainly listen to Metal versions of Pop music, besides Sonata Arctica, Blind Guardian, Iron Maiden, Dio etc.
My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion’s Tribute) Video
The song was made as a duet between Daisa Munhoz and Pedro Campos; was it given that it was those two that was going to do the duet?
Heleno – I chose to cover that song just when I saw Pedro Campos singing its end chorus. I thought it was so amazing that it deserved to be recorded. As for Daísa’s participation, I always insisted that she record a Celine Dion’s song and she finally accepted and did a great job. She is the best singer I know and certainly deserve more attention.
Brand new album THE SECOND BIG BANG
At the time for the last interview you were in the process of recording the album, why did it take the band so long to get the album ready? I mean last we spoke was back in 2013. I think THE SECOND BIG BANG is a really great album and I like it a lot.
Heleno – The process took us this long, 5 years to be more precise, because we decided to count on more big participants and we also recorded many tributes along the way. However, I think it worth each second. We have done our biggest album, for sure, with the best sonority we ever had, the biggest and well-known list of participants, more mature compositions and lyrics. We delayed the release also due to the many wonderful tributes we recorded. I listed them previously in the other question. Finally, as I always say, we are not bound to any label. No one forces us to release anything. Therefore, we were not in a hurry. Really. We were focused only in releasing the best album we could. You will probably not listen to a very good album of a band, which is forced to compose and release an album per year or per a pre-determined time. I think you know what I mean.
Have you written all of the material on your own? Do you have anyone you’re exchanging ideas with regarding the material?
Heleno – I composed this album entirely on my own. Then I meet with the producer, Tito, who improved the arrangements. Only then do we distribute the songs to the musicians and set them free to create and arrange too.
SOULSPELL ACT IV | RELEASE DATE | PARTICIPANTS | TRACKLIST
When you write songs do you already have a singer’s voice in your head or do you decide afterward when the song is ready who is going to sing it?
Heleno – There is not a formula for this. I just figure out what part of the story the album will tell, then I try to write a text paragraph for each song and start writing the songs on my computer. Sometimes I know quickly who will sing the part because of the lyrics, but sometimes I write without knowing who will sing it. Occasionally, the parts fit more than one character, and then I chose the vocalist later.
Could you tell us the story behind the songs this time, what are the lyrics about?
Heleno – The albums tell, chronologically, the same story since the first act. It starts with Tobit discovering he has special visions from the past (Act I). Then Tobit and Judith have a son, Timo, and when he completes 15 years of existence, strange things start to happen with the boy and he finds out the secrets of his parents (Act II). Searching for the truth, Timo finds the magic tree and his guardian, Banneth, who guide him to the Labyrinth of Truths. Hollow, the dragon, guardian of the labyrinth, cannot take Timo’s incursion and decides to eradicate the human beings starting by him (Act III). The fourth act is told from the end to the beginning, symbolizing the reverse of time. It starts when a brilliant scientist discovers that the human beings will be extinct. Timo is the only one who could break the spell and reverse the big crunch defeating Hollow, but he fails (Act IV). You will need to wait the fifth album to know the rest (lol).
Does THE SECOND BIG BANG begin where HOLLOW’S GATHERING left off?
Heleno – For sure!
Is it possible to understand and enjoy the album without having heard HOLLOW’S GATHERING before?
Heleno – Yes. I compose the songs and album to work separately too. However, certainly, it is more interesting if you have the four albums and know the story.
What did fans think of the YouTube announcement of which singers were going to participate on the album?
Heleno – I am happy with the acceptance until now. Most of the fans are supporting the album, linking and sharing the videos. I think we are headed the right way.
The video to “Horus’s Eye” has got 22,000 hits so far, are you happy with that and what comments have the video received?
Heleno – I thought our videos deserve more views, but I’m not worried. I have to concentrate on producing good music for my friends and family. I don’t have time to complain about the Metal market etc. The comments are fine. People are supporting the video and liked Ralf and Dani singing together.
Horus’s Eye (Official Video)
Why did you title the album THE SECOND BIG BANG?
Heleno – Because I like the subject very much, I love to read and study about space and time, and because the album tells about the end of humanity like I said previously.
Who did the cover art work of the album?
Heleno – Andreas Marschall did this cover art. It is very a special opportunity for me because I always tried to have a cover created by this genius. I was so much influenced by Blind Guardian – IMAGINATIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE and NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH that to have a cover art created by Andreas makes me proud.
New guests on the album are Timo Kotipelto, Ralf Scheepers, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and Oliver Hartmann, how did they end up on the album? Add to that the rest of the singers that participate like Daisa Munhoz, Blaze Bayley and Tim “Ripper” Owens and you gathered quite a formidable line-up! 🙂
Heleno – Thank you. I talk to people over the Internet, making good friends and contacts. Then when I have a new character that fits one kind of voice, I check my contacts to know who could sing it. I only take care not to give a high tune to a low male vocal and things like that. Then I send an e-mail, Facebook, or phone call to the vocalist and see if he is available. Many times it does not work, but the other 50% of the times it works. It is a cool but exhausting process.
Was there any singer that you wanted to feature but couldn’t make it?
Heleno – Yes. There are a few. Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, Michael Mills, Rob Halford, Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith, Michael Kiske, Hansi Kürsch, Tobias Sammet, Tony Kakko, Bob Catley, Jorn Land etc.
Do you think this album follows in the same musical direction as HOLLOW’S GATHERING or have you done anything new music-wise?
Heleno – I think each Soulspell album has its own sonority but they work well like a team too. So, TSBB follows the same musical direction, but we tried a lot of things we had never tried before. The intro is very daring because it counts on only harps and the powerful male voice of Jefferson Albert. Daísa’s end part on Sound of Rain is very daring too, because she recorded the vocal melismas on the first attempt. The choirs of “Game of Hours”, “White Lion of Goldah”, as well as many choirs on this album were also new for us because we used many voices and many vocalists. The solos and duets of “The Second Big Bang”‘s mid part is crazy and very difficult to play live. “Dungeons and Dragons” was written with the help of my brother, who is not a musician, inspired by video game tracks. We never tried these things before. It was amazing. I love to try new things and I certainly will dare a little more on the 5th album.
The album contains 12 songs and clocks in at about 60 minutes. There are also two bonus tracks featured in “Soulspell” and “Alexandria” in apocalypse version taken from the album A LEGACY OF HONOR, are those tracks also featured on the regular version of the album?
Heleno – Yes, they figure on the albums and media for every country. Actually, I’m very bored and tired of countries and labels which “command” a bonus track to release the album. Brazil, South America, Mexico, Africa etc. deserves the best as well as Japan, or Europe, or USA. We need to stop doing crazy fucking stupid things like this or humanity will end with shame.
Were there any songs you wrote that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
Heleno – No. The fifth album will be written entirely from the beginning.
What are the songs “Sound of Rain” (9.09) and “White Lion of Goldah” (6.18) about?
Heleno – “Sound of Rain” is a track that tells the moment when Timo dies and humanity is doomed. Only he could stop Hollow and the time reversal, which will culminate on the second big bang. However, by the prayers of a little boy, called Adrian, the great “White Lion of Goldah” carries him to meet the maker. You will know this conversation in the fifth album.
Why do you play so little drums on the album, you only play on four songs. Who are the guys that take care of the drumming?
Heleno – They are my friends and I like to invite them to play together with me. It is always funny and I like to remember these moments. Actually, these are the moments that worth it.
Why isn’t Mario Pastore participating on the album this time?
Heleno – His character’s spirit is inside the Labyrinth of Truths and Pedro Campos sing it. I love Mario’s voice and Timo is one of the main characters, so he will return on the next albums probably.
You co-operate a lot with members from Vandroya a lot, both Daisa Munhoz and Rodolfo Pagotto join forces with you this time, how come you wanted to work with them?
Heleno – Daísa Munhoz is maybe the only member who is with me since the beginning. In my opinion, she is the best singer ever to step on the face of the Earth, so it is always a pleasure to work with her. In addition, I learn a lot recording her. Therefore, I will always invite her and she can do anything she wants in Soulspell. Regarding Pagotto, he is special guitar player with a brilliant mind. He fits the project very well because he has different and very emotional ideas. So it is always a pleasure to work with him as well.
What has the media said about the album, have you read any reviews?
Heleno – There are some good and some bad reviews until now. I do not understand how Internet posts influence people this much. I mean even the good or bad reviews; do not let yourself be influenced by them. You do not know the background or intentions of the reviewers. Listen to the album, read the story and lyrics before reading anything on the Internet. That is it. This is your true opinion regarding anything.
Are there any differences in how you are treated by foreign and native press?
Heleno – Yes. Unfortunately, in my opinion, regarding the power metal style, most of native metal press publish notes about the biggest 1 or 2 bands exaggeratedly more than the others. I kind of understand the metal press needs, I really do, but, in my opinion, this dome created over the big bands is a cancer for Brazilian heavy metal. The press and even the big bands will need the other bands in the near future, so the metal market can grow and spread. However, these bands are dying here and maybe Soulspell and many other bands will be extinct soon. People do not see that it is impossible to be trapped on a desert island with the albums of only one band. You would be crazy in few weeks even with all Maiden albums. Foreign press seems to respect the other bands a little more equally I guess.
How would you like to describe what kind of hard rock you play?
Heleno – That is a hard one. Maybe Power Metal I think but we don’t write only about swords, dragons and medieval stories which could be understood by a 5 years old child and most of our songs don’t have these big choirs so I don’t know. Soulspell does not follow a pre-determined style.
Studio and production
You once again worked with Tito Falaschi as producer, what is his strongest feature as producer?
Heleno – He has the same influences that I have, Iron Maiden, Tears For Fears etc. And he has a brilliant mind to arrange the songs. He also plays the bass and guitars and sing very well.
In which studio was the album recorded?
Heleno – In many, mostly at Valetes Records in Bauru/SP.
Did the guests do their parts in separate studios?
Heleno – Yes. Many international guests work in their own studios.
In Encyclopedia Metallium it says that the mixing and mastering was made by Dennis Ward, is that correct and how was it to work with him?
Heleno – Yes. We worked with Dennis this time. He is a very good producer and knows how to mix and master a heavy metal album.
Label and manegement
Why did you end your co-operation with Inner Wound Recordings?
Heleno – I wanted to be physically close to the label and releasing the album through Valetes Records will give me this opportunity. In addition, I wanted to release the album in 2017 and the other label wanted to release it only in 2018. That were not an option for me this time.
For how long was Soulspell without a record deal?
Heleno – Actually, Soulspell does not need a record deal. Nowadays, bands can release their own albums digitally. But Soulspell always had a record deal until now. We worked with Spiritual Beast, Inner Wound and now with Hellion Records and Valetes Records.
Who releases THE SECOND BIG BANG? When the album came out in May was it released worldwide?
Heleno – Hellion released it physically in Brazil and Valetes released it digitally worldwide.
Is the album going to be released in North America, Europe and Canada?
Heleno – Probably not through a label because I do not want it anymore. But we made a deal here in Brazil with the post office and we are sending copies from here for almost every country with the same price of delivering the albums here in Brazil.
When did you start to co-operate with the promotion agency Against PR and are you happy with the work they have put into the band?
Heleno – It is the first time we work together and I’m happy with the results. It seems to be a serious and honest promotion agency.
Are there any plans on releasing THE SECOND BIG BANG on vinyl?
Heleno – No. This is not on my plans right now, only in my dreams.
How come the new album isn’t available to listen to at Spotify?
Heleno – Actually, it is available. We just had to solve a small problem. The first three albums are still bound to Inner Wound and the new one was released through Valetes Records. Therefore, you have to search it properly.
When we last spoke you said you didn’t work with any management, how is it today?
Heleno – We still don’t work with any management.
What are your opinions regarding streaming music and listen to music for free? Is that dragging the music industry down when it comes to people buying physical albums?
Heleno – I really don’t know yet. Now I’m working with a label of a friend of mine, Emil from Valetes Records, so I think I will be able to understand it a little more. Maybe you can ask this question again in the interview for the fifth album (lol).
Past and present
Where in the world do the band have the most fans?
Heleno – I think Brazil and South America for now, but we have many fans sending messages from Europe, Asia, Canada, USA, and Mexico.
Why don’t you have a website?
Heleno – We had but we decided to upgrade the site for the release of the 4th album and we were just abandoned by the enterprise which managed this upgrade (things that happen in Brazil). Now we are trying to develop a new website and put it on line asap.
Do you get a lot from questions from fans through your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? What’s the most common question they ask the band?
Heleno – Yes, I get a lot of questions and try to answer everyone. The most common question is usually “Why didn’t you contact Mr. X to sing or play on the album?”, “Please, watch this video of Mr. Y singing and invite him to the next album”, “When will you do a new singer’s contest?”, “When would you come to our country or state to a concert?” etc.
The brand new video to “Dungeons and Dragons” got almost 60,000 hits, congratulations, what can you tell us about the video?
Heleno – It is a very special video because Mr. Fabio Lione is with us. It is also the first video clip we did in the last years, after “Adrift”, for a Soulspell song. It is important for me because it is the first song I did together with my brother, totally inspired in our childhood and video game soundtracks. The video has a complex story involved; I think you cannot understand it at first sight. You need to get involved with the story and lyrics to get the double meaning of the scenes. Give it a try (lol).
Dungeons And Dragons (Official Video)
I took a look at the two biggest online record stores in Sweden but none of them had an album with SoulSpell, why is that?
Heleno – We are not working with any international label for physical copies because we never saw a cent coming from CDs abroad. Then we decided to send the albums from Brazil. We have a good deal for the postage costs. It is almost the same cost of sending the album to Brazilian states. Help us buying the album with us through Facebook page or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can send any item from our virtual store: soulspell-metal-store.lojaintegrada.com.br/
Is there and interest shown for the band in USA/Canada and Europe?
Heleno – Yes. We got a message from a big festival in USA but there is nothing concluded yet. I hope we can travel abroad soon.
Would you like to take SoulSpell out on a European tour? Is there any interest shown in the band amongst European festivals and booking agents?
Heleno – Yes, I have much interest on this, but we have not received many messages about it yet. I hope the fourth album improve this subject for us.
According to the bio the band is going to tour outside Brazil, where are you heading?
Heleno – We plan to tour Europe soon and some South America countries too.
When you’re out on the road which singers are going to tag along?
Heleno – Today Soulspell singers are: Daísa Munhoz, Jefferson Albert, Victor Emeka, Daniel Guirado, Pedro Campos, Talita Quintano and Edney Marques. I intend to have some special guests for some events but the main team is that one.
The same bio also say that you have plans on recording a live CD, what are your comments on that? If so are you also going to record a live DVD?
Heleno – We have many targets before recording a new album. We intend to record a live DVD, to release a complete tribute album for our biggest influences and to release a “Best Of” album. Regarding the DVD, it should be in Brazil at Sao Paulo or at our hometown, Lençóis Paulista.
Last year SoulSpell celebrated 10 years as a band, did you do anything special to high light that?
Heleno – I tried, but the fourth album was delayed for several reasons and I missed the right time for that. But I still think of calling the DVD “10 years with Soul” or anything like it.
Have you started to work on the next album already?
Heleno – Yes. I am always with my phone, recording riffs and melodies and ideas at any place, any time. However, as I told you, there are many ideas to accomplish before starting recording the fifth album.
When we spoke last time you said you were going to release 9 albums with SoulSpell, do you stick to that today?
Heleno – Yes. I just need to stop losing money with the albums, and then it should become true. Nine albums is what I need to tell you the story properly.
Super Black Hole (Official Video)
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy THE SECOND BIG BANG?
Heleno – I can give you more than 3 reasons: 1) Belive me. It is one of the best power metal albums in a long time ago; 2) Many special and well-known guests doing amazing performances like Fabio Lione, Ralf Scheepers, Timo Kotipelto, Oliver Hartmann, Andre Matos, Kiko Loureiro etc; 3) New Brazilian generation of singers, some of the best singers of the world: Daísa Munhoz, Victor Emeka, Jefferson Albert, Pedro Campos etc; 4) Beautiful choirs; 5) Emotional melodies that will certainly make you shed some tears; 6) A beautiful and complex story and lyrics etc;
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the bands music yet?
Heleno – Well, I respect every musical taste, but if you like good fantasy stories, good lyrics, strange characters’ roles, and intrinsic Heavy and Power Metal, you should give Soulspell a chance.
Finally, as always, do you have any words of wisdom to share with readers and fans?
Heleno – Be smart! Do not kill the bands that do a hard work for you. Help the bands you like going to their concerts and buying their stuff. They just cannot live without your help. When a band that you like dies, maybe you were not the one holding the gun, but you were certainly an indirect responsible. You are not the one to blame, because you have the right to support only the bands you want. But, yes, you are an indirect responsible, you choose who lives and who dies. Be smart! See what bands are fake, what bands are playing only because of the money and what bands deserve you to be a true fan. Do not elect stupid idols that are crap human beings and fake musicians with stolen ideas. We are living in 2017 not in 1917. No one needs to be blind anymore. There are means we can use not to be cheated anymore. We can look for answers and do the right choices not only in music. Be smart!
Thanks again for taking the time making the interview, I really appreciate it and wish you and the rest of the band all the best. I also have to congratulate you to the release of such a brilliant album as THE SECOND BIG BANG, I really hope you and the band are coming over to Scandinavia soon doing some live shows.
Heleno – I promise you we will! Soon! Thank you very much for the opportunity.