Leader/singer/keyboard player Adrien G. Gzagg – Avaland
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
Coming out of France is a new metal opera project under the name of Avaland, which is led by the 22-year old singer/keyboardist/composer Adrien G. Gzagg. Avaland has similarities with Avanstasia or Ayreon in the sense that there are 8 singers playing different parts. A few of them are: Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Zak Stevens (Savatage, TSO etc), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Emmanuelson (Rising Steel), and Stéphan Forté (Adagio).
I had the pleasure to talk to the mastermind and leader Adrien G. Gzagg about working on the music and story-line, the members who participated on the album, and how he convinced them to join. We also spoke about the potential of the short tour the project will undertake next year, and of course we discussed the COVID-19 pandemic situation in France.
If you like Avantasia, Ayreon, Beast In Black, Nightmare, or Sonata Arctica this is something new for you to check out…Enjoy.
Hi Adrien, how are you doing today? Ready to kick off the interview?
Hi Metal Rules! I’m fine, ready for anything!
When did you start to write material to the new album?
It started 4 or 5 years ago, when I was around 18-years old.
The info sheet states that your music is inspired by Tobias Sammet and Arjen Lucassen, is that correct? Are you inspired by those guys and what do you like about them?
I love those guys and their masterpiece projects and of course, they inspire me a lot. For Tobi, I love his character, his scenic presence, and all the majesty and emotion he brings to Avantasia. For Arjen, I also love the character, but I’m crazy about his sound on Star One and the incredible storytelling of Ayreon. He has so many influences too, he is the “prog-man” ! (laughs)
The info sheet also says that you have been working on the album for about 5 years, is it so?
From the very first composition until the release, yes about 5 years. But actually, today’s lineup worked really hard on the album for a year and a half.
What have you done prior to Avaland?
I started a little power/fm band named Eyezery, which is in stand-by nowadays, and I composed all keyboards and the orchestrations of the last Amon Sethis album.
Was it easy to recruit members to join you in Avaland?
It wasn’t so hard, but the most difficult was to have the best team possible, not necessarily with the best musicians in the world, but the ones which push the team beyond it limits. And I’m really proud of this little family !
When you wrote THEATER OF SORCERY did you have each specific vocalist in mind for each song?
Not at the very beginning, but for some characters it came quickly to me. For example, Emmanuelson or Zak Stevens. I thought more of the voices than the singers, and after I tried to match them with my library’s singers.
Is Avaland a band or a project and where does the name come from?
I see it more than a project more than a band. As for the name, it’s just a contraction of “Avalon” and “Land”.
In the middle of January the single/video to “Theater Of Sorcery” was released already has over 100,000 hits on YouTube. Congrats! What can you tell us about the video and how was it to shot it during the pandemic?
Thanks a lot! It was pretty cool, the pandemic was kind of beneficial for the videoclip’s production. We could film in fabulous places which usually host a lot of visitors. To have an entire castle’s garden or all of the most beautiful cave in France just for us was so exciting!
Theater of Sorcery (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Could you tell us the story behind THEATER OF SORCERY? I read that it’s an epic story with 8 characters and that it’s a theatrical metal adventure (?).
It relates the story of the young Adam Wilstorm in the kingdom of Avaland, discovering his stormy powers and learning to master them to bring the light back to Avaland. He will be supported by his friend, beloved, and other important personalities of the kingdom.
A bunch of guests are appearing on the album like Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Heli Andrea (Mobius/Olane), Zak Stevens (ex-Savatage, TSO etc), Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear, ex- Gamma Ray) and Madie (Nightmare, Faith In Agony). How did all these end up on the album, are you friends with everyone?
I’m friends with Emmanuelson, Madie and Jeff. I’ve met and talked with some of the Myrath guys and with Stepahn Forté in the past. As for Ralf or Zak, I just played built up my nerve and took a chance.
Were there any singer you wanted to appear on the album but couldn’t make it?
I talked by mail with Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Kip Winger (Winger) and Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity/Nightingale) but they couldn’t do the vocals when I contacted them. Maybe they will be on future albums, who knows?
There’s also a bunch of well-known guitarists appearing on the album like Ricky Marx (ex- Pretty Maids, Now Or Never), Stephan Forté (Adagio), Ayman Mokdad (Venus Syndrome, Alien Encounters) and Virgile (ex- Rising Steel) how did they end up on the album?
Virgile and Ayman are friends, and I had some talks with Ricky and Stephan before. Stephan also was Christophe’s (guitars) professor.
Why did you name the album THEATER OF SORCERY?
I’d like to introduce the world to what Avaland will be, with magic and theatrical moments, so the title came really quickly to me.
Who did the cover art work of the album?
The cover was drawn by the mighty and incredible Stan W. Decker.
Rise From The Ashes (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
How would you like to describe the kind of music THEATER OF SORCERY includes?
You will find some typical power and symphonic metal songs (“Storyteller”, “Holy Kingdom of Fools”) , some others with prog inspirations (“Gypsum Flower”, “War of Minds”) and other with AOR influences (“Let the Wind Blow”, “I’ll Be Ready For Your Love”).
Would you say that your music lies close to Avantasia or Ayeron for example?
I think this first album is near to Avanatsia’s album, but for the future I’d like to go straight between both Ayreon and Avantasia, and focus on simply being Avaland.
To which fans of metal would you say that THEATER OF SORCERY turns?
If you like epic-ness, great melodies, and good riffing you will enjoy TEATER OF SORCERY. It doesn’t matter the style you’re coming from; we’ve had some good reviews from people that are pure death metal fans for example.
The info sheet says that fans of Avantasia, Ayreon, Beast In Black, Nightmare and Sonata Arctica would like the album. Do you agree with that?
Yes, totally, if we limit Avaland to the power metal family, but I’m pretty sure Avaland could also be enjoyed by non-metalheads people (as GHOST is), and also prog, old school heavy metal, ’80’s hard rock, melodic death metal, and folk metal fans.
The album contains 11 tracks and clocks in at about 60 minutes which makes it a pretty long album. Was it your intention to create a long album?
No, I just had the songs I created to tell my story and, “wow magic !!!” it took more than one hour! (laughs)
Were there any songs you wrote that didn’t make it on to the final edition of the album?
No, the other material I had was already planned for the 2nd opus!
What is the longest song, “Gypsum Flower”, about?
It tells about the source of the veil of darkness within Avaland for many years, how it works, and where it came from.
Does the listener have to listen to the entire album in order to get the picture of the story or does the songs stand on their own?
I think it’s better to listen the album in order the first times, then you could do what you want.
The album has gotten some great reviews from the media. Did you expect such a positive response?
We hoped, but didn’t expect the welcome we got! We are so happy to see our album enjoyed so much; it brings a lot of good energy for the next one!
Metal-rules.com gave THEATER OF SORCERY 3.5/5 with the following words – “however these collaborations seem to steal our attention from the main character which is the lead singer.” What do you think of that?
There is some truth in in those words, but for a first try I was afraid of imposing myself too much. Now I will assume at 100% my next characters and let them more place in the songs.
What response have you gotten from fans on the album?
Only good and constructive responses, so that’s very encouraging! The most impressive thing is that every song of the album is the favorite of one or other, and I’m very proud of that.
Let The Wind Blow (VISUALIZER)
Did the pandemic have any effect on the recording of the album?
It only brought us a little more time to improve the song’s arrangement. So, apart from the mental hardships, it was actually beneficial.
Personally, I think the album is great with some really well-written material and some great efforts by all the guests. The only thing I have to make a remark on is maybe the main characters (your) vocals, compared to Scheepers or Stevens voice it can feel a bit thin if you know what I mean? Are you happy with the outcome of the album?
I’m happy with how it sounds, I pushed my limits over and over on this first album. But I also still work a lot on my voice, even if I’m pretty young (23 years old), it’s not an excuse for me. My voice is even better today than on the record, and I hope the people could hear it on next lives and albums.
Studio and production
When did the recording of the album start and why did you choose to produce it yourself?
We recorded in June/July 2020. We didn’t have the choice to produce it by our own; when you start such a project in the metal sphere, you’re alone to prove your potential.
Isn’t it hard to produce your own album? I mean, is it hard to stay objective?
Hopefully I’m well encircled by professional and amazing people which, until now, have only provided great advice.
What does the rest of the members think of being produced by you?
They are comfortable with this, they don’t have to invest or make all the papers! (laughs) And I also try to make everyone happy with the final results.
Which studio was used and where is it located? Where did the guests record their parts?
We recorded with Steven Rozier at KNT studio, next to Grenoble in France, where I live. Some local guests like Jeff Kanji, Madie, and Emmanuelson came to KNT, the others recorded at their own studio or a studio they know next from where they live.
Were you part of the mixing process, done by Caleb Bingham?
I talked a lot with Caleb when he did the mix, telling him “Maybe put more orchestration on this song, and more guitars on this other”. He was efficient in his work.
Where did Kevin Codfert master the album?
At his own studio.
How long did the entire recording process from beginning to start take?
2 weeks for the recording and about 1 mouth and a half for the mix and the master.
Label and management
Was it hard to land a record deal?
It was hard to find a GOOD record deal, and with the pandemic, big labels doesn’t want to take any risks.
They answered very quickly and positively. The deal was very good too.
Are you happy with the work RR have put into the band and the album so far?
Yes, we are very impressed by the amazing promotion they put in Avaland! They were also open to all the proposals we made; it’s a real pleasure to work with RR.
Were there many labels that showed interest in signing Avaland?
Not really but we found the good one, so we’re not gonna complain!
Do you see any problems or difficulties in the fact that the band is in France and the label in Italy?
Not at all, we wanted to push Avaland on the international scene.
Besides CD and download, any plans on releasing the album on vinyl?
Now that we have a tour set for March 2022, we’re going to try and make new deals with the label. I’d like to make a nice vinyl record.
Are you a fan of the vinyl format?
I have around 200 vinyl records at home, so yes, I think I love it !
Does the band currently work with any management?
Not for the moment, maybe if we find more success in the future.
Past present and future
Avaland’s got a really nice looking website, who runs it?
I made it myself, so thank you so much!
The band is also pretty active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Do you think it’s important to be active on the social forums?
In the times we’re running, and more from the pandemic, YES, social media is the better way to promote an album. And when the pandemic ends, we could hopefully make Avaland’s promotion on the live stage!
Does the band get a lot of mail from fans, what’s the most common question they ask you?
“Where can we buy the album?” Hahaha, that’s so heart warming ! (Laughs). More sincerely, we already have some fans who share a lot of our posts and music, and we thank them a lot for this!
How has the pandemic affected the band and the album release? Have you been forced to cancel shows etc.?
It didn’t change anything about the release. We only had to re-schedule our first show supporting Rhapsody of Fire.
What’s the status in France at the moment regarding COVID-19 (now May 2021)?
We gonna un-confine slowly until this summer, and vaccinate a lot a people (as for me, not enough yet).
Do you think it’s going to be possible to head out on the road at the end of the year?
I think now we have to be a little optimistic, then I think yes, it will be possible.
I know you’re booked a support tour with the band Sortilège in March next year, are you excited to heading out meeting the fans?
It’s gonna be crazy! We already work a lot on our show to please as many fans as possible! And supporting legends like Sortilège is an awesome opportunity to meet the fans.
Holy Kingdom Of Fools (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Most of the tour dates are in France and Germany, what about the rest of Europe?
We also have 2 shows in Spain announced in Madrid and Barcelona (for my birthday!). And I don’t have the right to say anything more, haha!
Who takes care of all the different vocal parts on tour? Are you going to take in guests in a live situation?
Only Jeff Kanji and me, but we gonna give 300% of ourselves, sharing all the vocal parts!
The band has about 2,500 likes on FB at the moment. Do you think that amount is going to increase now that THEATER OF SORCERY is out?
He hope so of course! We’ll see it soon.
Many metal operas tend to be a trilogy. is THEATER OF SORCERY the first part of a trilogy?
Success permitting, I have ideas for 10 albums crossing different timelines. And maybe some spin-offs too!
What would you like to say to those that haven’t heard Avaland’s music before?
If you like fantasy, magic, and epic music, go check out Avaland!
Well, that was all for me and Metal-Rules.com this time, thanks a lot for taking the time making the interview. Stay safe and healthy and I really hope to see Avaland live in action soon. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Thanks for the support, take care of you and your family, and if you need some escape, go listen to Avaland’s THEATER OF SORCERY!