Royal Hunt – band leader/keyboardist André Andersen

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Band leader/keyboardist André Andersen – Royal Hunt

Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall

Thanks to Alexandra at North Point Productions for setting up the interview.
Thanks to North Point Productions for the promo pictures of the band.
Promo pictures taken by: Allen Ross Thomas

Danish melodic/progressive metal act Royal Hunt has been active since 1989. The band’s latest studio album, CAST IN STONE, came out in 2018 and now it’s time for the five piece act to release their latest effort DYSTOPIA which unfortunately got delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had the pleasure to speak with band leader/keyboardist André Andersen and we had an interesting chat about the band’s new album, which is a concept album containing guest appearances by well known names like Mark Boals, Henrik Brockmann (Evil Masquerade) and Mats Levén to mention a few.

Andersen has founded his own studio and production company called NorthPoint, so of course I had to ask him how it was to release DYSTOPIA by himself on his own label. Since he’s now are a studio owner, I also asked him what his opinions towards record labels are in general and the way they work and handle their artists. Read more about what he had to say below.


Hi, I hope you and the rest of the band are healthy in these pandemic times, thanks for taking the time making the interview, are you ready to begin?

So far so good so sure, let’s go.

Royal Hunt has been active since 1989, with you being the only remaining original member. What is the reason, do you think, that so many members have come and gone through out the years?

Being a permanent member of a band is getting more and more difficult these days (line-up changes became almost a routine – look at the news feed of any internet resource). The record industry has been broken since the late ’90s but also: balancing your personal/family life with all the obligations you have in a working band is tough – down the road you might realize that your priorities shifted and you’re not in sync with the rest of the guys.

In any case: not many bands managed to keep their original line-up after 30 years and – unfortunately – we’re not an exception.

Singer DC Cooper is back in the band again. He was previously in the band from 1995-98 and then rejoined in 2011. What made you join forces with him again?

It definitely wasn’t something that we pre-planned in any way, that’s for sure. In 2010 we released our 10th album – simply called “X” – and Mark Boals (our singer at the time) couldn’t do the tour due to his prior commitments. Stuff like that happens from time to time, so the tour got cancelled.

A bit later we were offered a new bunch of gigs and somebody suggested – considering the circumstances – to do something different, a kind of a “in-between/reunion/greatest hits” set.

Both fans and promoters were asking for it for years so we decided to give it a try. I got a hold of DC and we agreed to do this “one off” (as we thought about it at the time), mainly just to go out there and have some fun as both him and us were available and missed being on the road.

I must admit that – in the beginning – I had my reservations about this whole ordeal (and I’m sure that DC had his as well) yet the moment we met in the rehearsal room it all fell into place immediately, just as if we never had this break for a number of years. So here we are – 10 years later, having fun as never before.

Today’s line up has been solid since 2015, do you consider this line up to be a hardcore solid one?

It definitely feels like it as chemistry within the band is excellent…outstanding musicians, great people.

You and guitarist Jonas Larsen live in Denmark while bass player Andreas Olsson and Andreas Johansson lives in Sweden. Finally we have DC Cooper in America. Is it hard to have such a scattered band?

It’s challenging at times but we’re so used to it by now that it doesn’t bother us as much as some might expect. Sure it involves more traveling, more Zoom discussions and such, but all in all it is manageable.

What did fans and media think of the bands previous album CAST IN STONE from 2018?

I’ve seen/heard only positive reactions and both physical and digital sales were sufficient enough to reward us with a decent budget in order to start working on our next album.

Why did you choose to release it on your own and with a label backing you up?

The short answer is – simply because we can. We’re very much in charge of most if not all of RH’s activities. Plus, the decision making process (such as release dates/territories, formats, PR direction and content) is fast, with the outcome being more economically rewarding.

Why did you end your co-operation with Frontiers Records?

Our contractual period had come to an end and we decided not to extend it further.

When I look at the band’s website it’s clear that you only did 9 shows during 2018 and 2 shows during 2019 and those took place mostly in Denmark and Russia. Why didn’t the band tour more?

I’m sure we played a bit more than that but in general, you’re right – for various reasons our live activities were scarce lately yet we all stayed busy with other RH-related stuff… and we’re very much convinced that our fans won’t be disappointed with the result.

The current members are also involved in other bands, do you see any problems with that?

Not at all: as long as we can manage to make our schedules work and keep RH as a first priority – it’s all good, nothing’s wrong with working with other outlets and generate some extra income.

New album DYSTOPIA

When did the band start the work on material to DYSTOPIA?

I’d say probably already in the summer/fall of 2018, but the main body of work’s been done from the end of 2019 to the late spring of 2020.

Who in the band writes the music and the lyrics and what are the lyrics about on DYSTOPIA?

“Dystopia. Part 1” is the first half of the concept album inspired by the great Ray Bradbury´s book – Fahrenheit 451.

I wrote this piece with the invaluable input from the rest of the band: DC Cooper, Andreas Johansson, Jonas Larsen and Andreas Passmark; without their talents, this rather large project wouldn’t sound as it does.

DYSTOPIA is the band’s 15th album. Did you ever felt any pressure on delivering something extraordinary this time around?

Not really, you just do what you feel is right at the moment…you can never predict which idea will catch your attention for whatever reason. After 30 years, we don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone; we have this delightful freedom of creating music which we really want to create at this particular time without worrying too much about how it will be received.

You just mentioned, and the info sheet says, the album is inspired by Ray Bradbury’s classic novel “Fahrenheit 451”. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes, it’s a wonderful book which is ever so relevant in our present times with rising censorship, distorted political correctness, and endless attempts to re-write history. Nobody could have said it better than Mr. Bradbury himself:

“There is more than one way to burn a book and the world is full of people run­ning about with lit matches. Every minority feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse… each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that book, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever”.

Why did you title the album DYSTOPIA and who came up with the title?

In every article I could find mentioning “Fahrenheit 451” it’s always been described as “the world’s most famous dystopia” so I thought that this particular title was rather appropriate.

Who did the cover art and what are your thoughts about the outcome?

To put a burning book on the cover was an obvious choice in this case and – in my opinion – it turned out pretty well.

A bunch of well known vocalists like previous RH singers Henrik Brockmann and Mark Boals makes guest appearances on the album, along with Mats Levén, Kenny Ludcke and Alexandra Andersen. How did the last ones end up on the album?

We wanted this album to be almost as a theatre/movie soundtrack/rock opera in a way (a few reviewers noticed the “almost cinematic” sound/feel of the album). After all – it’s a concept album so you can allow yourself to go a bit farther left or right with a musical piece like that compared to a “regular” album.

That and an inclusion of a “larger scale” orchestration and – most importantly and quite unusual for Royal Hunt – appearance of a few guest singers “playing” various characters from the story: Mats Leven, Mark Boals, Henrik Brockmann, Kenny Lubcke and Alexandra Andersen – created the desired effect.

How many hits has your studio diary on YouTube had until now?

I have no idea but I’ve been told that there’s enough interest out there for us to keep on doing it.

The album clocks in at 55 minutes and includes 10 tracks. Was it your intention to make a long album?

The story is so immense that we even had to divide it into two parts! I guess it explains the rather extended length of the album.

Three of the songs are strictly instrumental. What made you choose to feature so many instrumental pieces?

They were used to provide a bigger contrast between the “regular” tracks, also participating in creating that “soundtrack” feel for the entire album.

Did you have a clear vision on which singer you wanted to sing on each song?

Yes, from the very beginning, and I’m eternally thankful to each and every one of these immensely talented people for taking part in the recording of this conceptual work.

In November the lyric video “The Art of Dying” featuring Mats Levén was released on Youtube and has 140,000 hits so far. What did fans think of the video?

If it’s been watched 140,000 times so far I’d guess that some people might like it, right?

 

“The Art Of Dying” ft. Mats Leven (single version taken from studio album “Dystopia”)

 

Given the current pandemic and the fact that members are scattered across the globe, is it possible for the band to shoot a video right now?

Probably not in that “traditional” sense, but we’re thinking about filming some visuals in the very near future.

What are the longest songs “The Art of Dying” (8,50) and “Black Butterflies” (8,17) about?

I’d rather not start to explain that in detail as the story is pretty vast and I have no intentions to re-write chapters of it here. Besides that, every listener interprets lyrics individually, so I see no point in steering their perception of it in any particular direction. In my 30-year career, I’ve met lots of fans who had their own understanding of many of my lyrics and I actually enjoyed discovering their personal views on some of the stories I wrote.

How would you describe the style of Royal Hunt’s music?

We were fortunate enough to be able to establish our own sound pretty early in the band’s career; it’s easily recognizable and – for good or bad – sets us a bit apart from other artists. Personally I’d say that the “Royal Hunt Sound/style” is a combination of Classic Rock, Progressive and Classical music.

Metal-rules.com gave DYSTOPIA 4 out of 5 in our review, congratulations! Have you read any reviews of the album?

I did and I’m very grateful for each and every one; it’s always a pleasure to see our collective work’s being appreciated by so many.

Are there any difference in how Danish press writes about the band compared to other European press?

Not really, at least I didn’t notice any difference.

How have the fans reacted on DYSTOPIA?

Very well, I’d even say quite a bit more enthusiastic than we have expected – after all, a concept album with guest singers and lengthy instrumental parts could be a bit challenging to digest but yet – people seem to enjoy it tremendously.

Many bands/artists thinks their latest album is their best one yet, is it so with DYSTOPIA for you?

It’s obviously a natural emotion – you’re enjoying your latest offering the most… until you start working on the next one.

Do you think older, hardcore Royal Hunt fans will enjoy DYSTOPIA?

I think that it’s pretty obvious by now that they already do and we all – everybody involved – are sincerely thrilled by that. It’s nice to see your work appreciated that much.

D.C Cooper sings on 6 songs on the album, is he the main character in the DYSTOPIA story like Tobias Sammet is in Avantasia?

Absolutely, DC Cooper is the main character in this story.

I think the album is really good with some really strong songs and excellent music, are you happy with the outcome of DYSTOPIA?

So far – very much so, and I hope that even more people will discover this album and enjoy great performances by everybody involved.

Studio and production

Where is the NorthPoint Productions studio located? You used the studio quite a lot, do you own it?

I started running my own studio in Copenhagen in the mid/late-80’s and by now, after being situated at different locations through the years, it is set up just outside the city.

All RH albums have been recorded here – it’s where we all feel comfortable recording and have plenty of time to experiment (as I have collected quite a bit of gear over the years) with different sounds/arrangements etc. It’s very liberating to work when you actually feel like working and not to have time constrains of any kind.

Did you produce the album? What does the rest of the band think of you as producer?

My role – as being quite experienced after working in this studio field for so many years – is to steer the process into the direction which we, as a band, have collectively chosen from the start. Practically and sonically, the entire band is and always has been heavily involved in the process. Everybody has their individual sound and everybody have ideas regarding musical direction as well as sonic perspectives, so my job is to catch it all and make it all fit on the album.

What do you think are your strongest features as a producer?

To maintain that “fan perspective” on top of the technical aspect while working with an artist.

Does the band record everything at the same time as a unit or does each member record their part separately?

It depends – we’re using both techniques in different situations.

Where did the guests record their parts?

Mats Leven and Mark Boals recorded their parts at their own recording facilities while the rest of the guys recorded theirs at NorthPoint.

How long did the recording process take?

I’d say around 6 months or so; the ongoing pandemic slowed the entire process down quite a bit.

Label and management

The band has been working with a line of labels like Kick Music, Magna Carta Records, Steamhammer, and Frontiers Records. What’s your opinion about labels in general?

There’re some good ones and not so good ones, it all depends on a lot of factors. But in general, the recording part of the music industry is in a very bad shape, it´s undeniable and – unfortunately – prospects are even dimmer today that they were even a couple of years ago.

You’re now signed to NorthPoint Productions, how come you chose to work with them? Is it correct that you work with them as composer as producer and that Alexandra Andersen works as production manager?

NorthPoint Productions started as an extension of my studio where all our albums being produced. We started with supplying our previous record labels with additional pictures/EPK´’s and other visuals, maintaining our social media presence and such. Later on we moved into digital distribution while establishing our own platform as well. Public relations followed and – as the crew grew bigger – we took over the actual production and physical distribution (through various distribution companies) and became an all-in-house label, controlling all aspects of mechanical/publishing/licensing/merchandize activities, working closely with our management (Michael Raitzin/Majestic Entertainment LLC) and Warner Chappell Publishing.

Besides CD, vinyl, and CD-deluxe editions, will it be possible to purchase the album as colored vinyl as well?

I’m not sure as of right now, but various versions of LP’s been discussed. So far the double-album version’s been already released.

Are the band currently working with any European distribution label?

Yes, Sound Pollution guys are in charge of the physical distribution of CDs.

It’s quite hard to find DYSTOPIA in Swedish online stores, one of the biggest ones only has the regular CD in store and the other one doesn’t have the album at all. What’s your thoughts on that?

I can only tell you that Sound Pollution is in charge of the regular version CD, yet NorthPoint Productions handles all the other versions of the album.

I’m mainly involved in the studio part of our work while NorthPoint Production staff (which by now consists of a few very dedicated people) handling the rest of the operation.

Is it possible to purchase your older albums today? I know that many of them are totally sold out?

Almost all of our albums have been released on vinyl recently (PAPER BLOOD is also on the way – both as vinyl and as an extended CD version, so keep an eye on www.royalhunt.com ).

A total re-release of all of our albums on CD’s is not our priority at the moment.

Why was the release date postponed?

Due to the ongoing pandemic (which caused some logistical difficulties) we were forced to postpone the release date by one month.

Do you have any idea how many copies DYSTOPIA sold yet?

Not at the moment, but according to various listings it’s doing well.

How many copies did CAST IN STONE sell and where you happy on how much it sold?

We’re all very pleased with how CAST IN STONE performed and it secured a solid budget for the band to produce DYSTOPIA PT.1, and for the crew of NorthPoint Production to continue working on it and even expanding their operations.

Is DYSTOPIA available at Spotify or iTunes? And what about your older albums are they available for streaming?

All our albums are available on various digital platforms incl. Spotify, Itunes, YouTube etc. (royalhunt.com/discography/ )

Does the band currently work with any management or is NorthPoint Production taking care of that?

We’re managed by Michael Raitzin/Majestic Ent. LLC michael@majestic-rondelrecords.com

Past present and future

The bands website is looking good, who runs it?

Our web-crew at: info@northpoint-productions.com

Is it important for bands to be active on the various social media forums that available today?

It’s absolutely crucial to any band nowadays and it is a great experience: you’re dealing with your fans one on one, delivering your new album almost personally to them. During the entire process of recording, you’re having kind of a dialog where they can see/hear every aspect of the process, ask their questions, get the latest developments, and receive all the info first-hand.

The “music world” has changed and it’s hard to predict the future, but social media is an inevitable part of it.

DYSTOPIA is the bands 15th album, any thoughts of celebrating somehow?

Next year – 2022 – will see the band becoming 30 years old… now that’s a good reason to celebrate, which we most definitively will!Keep in touch, we’ll have a bag of nice surprises to our fans.

Do you think that the album is going to increase the amount of fans you’ve got on Facebook to over 93,000?

I’m not sure about Facebook and such but I do know that the number of Royal Hunt fans has been steadily growing – maybe not as fast as we wish it would – but nevertheless, this band survived for 30 years only because of them.

On the bands Facebook site it  says “Denmark’s best kept secret…30 years”. What does that mean?

It means that The Queen of Denmark has not graced us with knighthood yet even though we´ve been eligible for a while.

What do you think is the reason the band hasn’t gotten bigger than you are?

I’m sure there’re a few reasons for that: general public’s taste in music, the way media operates, stagnation of terrestrial radio, weak labels, cultural diversity or simply put, our kind of music is not for everybody. Nothing’s wrong with that, I see plenty of bands whom I personally like not making it to the major league, not playing stadiums. Not every band becomes Metallica yet it doesn’t make them less interesting…at least not in my book.

How has the pandemic affected the band touring/performing/money-wise?

The inability to tour is by far the worst part of this current situation, but it affects record sales as well. It’s a devastating blow to everybody involved: musicians and their crews, promoters, PA/lights renting companies, studios, bus companies, venues; the list is endless. We’ve not even started to count the “casualties” yet but it already looks like the damage from this unfortunate situation will be much more severe than we’re all projecting at the moment.

What’s the status in Denmark regarding COVID-19 at the moment? Do you have a lockdown going on?

Kind of, but it’s getting milder week by week.

I read that Denmark is going to open its borders in May, does that mean the band is heading out on the road in Denmark?

No so fast, we’re very much involved in the making of DYSTOPIA PT.2, so the touring bit would have to wait until 2022.

Has the current situation made it harder for the band to make promotion for DYSTOPIA?

Without the ability to tour or even do some single shows here and there… or even do some appearances? Get together and shoot a promo video for the album? Sure it got much harder, but nobody’s been promised an easy ride, so we’re just hanging in there.

Do you think it’s going to be possible for bands to start touring this fall? I know that you’re booked to perform at H.E.A.T festival in December this year?

I seriously doubt it, but let’s just wait and see.

Where in the world does the band have the biggest fanbase?

Our biggest fan base is obviously in Japan and SE Asia – it’s been like that for ages. A few other countries are good for us too but Japan has always been Number 1.

Are you happy with what you have achieved with Royal Hunt so far when it comes to albums, touring and play live and so one or do you think you should have done anything different in retrospect?

Could we have done something differently in the past? Probably, but right now we’re concentrating on releasing high-quality albums and working hard on promoting them as well as possible. So, heads down and full charge ahead.

How’s the interest for the band over in North and South America?

It’s there but it’s not overwhelming. Something we’ll be looking seriously into next year.

What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Royal Hunt yet?

Give it a listen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9yfEw08FnQ and decide for yourself.

Could you give them three reasons why they should buy DYSTOPIA?

If you like your metal powerful, large sounding with prog and neo-classical twist, performed flawlessly on a well-sounding album – do yourself a favor and check out DYSTOPIA PT.1.

That was all for me and Metal-rules.com this time around, stay healthy and safe and take care. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?

I’d say check out our latest album DYSTOPIA PT.1 on any digital platform of your liking; you can start here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9yfEw08FnQ or even better: get a physical copy of the album, they’re easy to find wherever you live.

In any case: visit us at www.royahunt.com and get to know our music, read all the relevant information about the band and – eventually – the upcoming tour dates.

Cheers!

//André Andersen

P.S.
Our recent concept studio album DYSTOPIA is available on ALL digital platforms ( as MP3, FLAC), as a regular CD (jewel case), and a deluxe edition (2 CD) at royalhunt.com

 

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