Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Solitude Aeturnus guitarist John Perez

Questions by Arto Lehtinen

Solitude Aeturnus is definitely one of the longest running heavy doom metal outfits still existing nowadays. The bandís emotional and above all traditional doom metal stuff with vocalist R. Loweís unique and excellent voice belongs to the same doom elite along with other classic doom names like Candlemass and Trouble. Unfortunately, Solitude Aeturnus have never gotten the same respect even though they definitely deserve it. Even though the whole band has been pretty much on hiatus during the last few years and kept a low profile, the next Solitude Aeturnus album can be expected to see the light of day in the fall of 2002. I was lucky enough to have a chance to talk with the bandís guitarist John Perez about the mighty Solitude Aeturnus.

Good day John. Whatís up there in Texas at the moment?!?

Great weather for a change, nice and cool (79 degrees!). Getting ready to go drink some ale and listen to metal all night with the Texas Doom Council.



Solitude Aeturnus, hmmÖ I have been under the impression the whole band has been put on hold in order to have more time to concentrate on running all your label business and of course normal day jobs and some of SA guys have some project bands going on. But it is definitely obvious you are not broken up, so could you politely shed some light on the current situation of S.A?!

Youíve pretty much summed it up in your question. Weíve done so much with this band over the years and I personally just needed to concentrate full time on my label job, as well as the others on their work and outside projects. When I take something on, I like to give it 200% and if I canít do that then I donít like doing it (whatever it is). So since I couldnít do Solitude A. 200%, I just decided that a little break was needed. Well after a little too long of a break weíre getting it back together to write some music, record an album and hopefully do a little more touring this time round.



According to you, the band would have gathered together and started composing and writing the new material for the sixth opus of SA, so are you going to share the typical and traditional music approach of which Solitude Aeturnus is known for (doomy and heavy elements and of course Robertís excellent voice crowns the whole ďepicus doomicus and metallicusĒ of Solitude Aeturnus) or will you try out something else for the next album?!?

A little of both actually. We are very aware of our sound and our goal has always been from the start to create quality heavy music with melody. If you check back on some interviews that I had done way back in í87 or í88, Iím sure youíll find that Iíve stated that to be our continuing mission. I think metal music is an excellent avenue for intelligent and though provoking music and lyrics and thatís what weíve done over the years. On this album I think we will attempt to stretch our boundaries on some of the songs even further than what weíve ever done so some of the material will be quite a bit different and yet some of is going to be more straight ahead and more metal than ever. Quality control is our goal and in quality comes variety and attention to detail. We will accomplish this for better of worse to everyone elseís ears!



I went through some older interviews of yours and I came across the one which we did a few years ago where you mentioned about doing a song or songs featuring the typical European power metal elements tied up, the double bass and so on, but the general atmosphere would be definitely heavy indeed, have you suspended those power metal elements from the new material now or will you carry them out anyway ?!?

Iím a fan of solid power metal so Iím always trying to bring a certain amount of that element into our sound. Problem is that itís hard to do something unique with this particular genre so we somewhat limit our use of it in Solitudeís sound these days. Our main focus is always trying to be as heavy as possible for the most part - no weak shit. But we can accomplish that in many ways. It doesnít have to be slow or brutal to be heavy in my opinion. Iím straying away from the original question - so lets just say that we will always have a certain amount of power metal in our sound as thatís what we all grew up listening to in the early to mid eighties.



The former bassist, Count Lyle, used to write a lot, well in fact majority of the Solitude Aeturnus stuff in the past albums and had still written for Adagio although had pulled out. Does his departure in a way or another effect the writing process of the sixth album or do you all have clear ideas how the next SA will sound?!?

Actually I am the member that is responsible for most of the music in Solitude Aeturnus although I think you are referring to the lyrics with this question. Of course it changed our approach somewhat when he left the band but I look at it in a positive way. Robert now writes most of the lyrics and his style is completely different than Lyles but no less effective. So itís more or less like a fresh approach for the band in general. Robertís lyrics are a bit more direct and focused so the reader/listener is more aware of what heís singing about where as Lyleís lyrics were a little more vague and used more metaphors. Both are great lyricists in my opinion - just different.



You once told me Adagio was the hardest album to write, is the writing process for the upcoming getting more harder for you to get the better result and the better tracks? I mean there is always risk for every band of getting the same ideas and they start repeating them on newer albums. Do you avoid repeating the already used elements and ideas and just try to focus on fresh and new ideas?!?

Yeah, I canít lie to you, it gets more difficult with each album because weíre very aware of falling into the trap of sounding too much the same on each album, so we become more critical with each album. I donít know how we do it, other than the fact that we take our time and are very realistic when it comes to our songs.



Could you unveil the name of the sixth album and some titles too ?!?

We havenít decided on either, although musically speaking we are about 75% done with it.


And have you decided the official release date of the next album ?!?

Massacre wants it out by Summer of 2002.



Hmm the first two albums have been carried out from the beginning to the end in your home state whereas the rest of the albums have been done in England. Have you been thinking of recording the sixth doom opus in Texas and will you leave the dustbowl for England once again and has a possible record label already expressed an opinion of their own about a possible studio?!?

We like the atmosphere of recording at Rythym Studios in England. Itís out in the country with no one to disturb you. Lots of rainy, cloudy, doomy days, great ale at the local pubs and just overall isolation that enables us to focus our energies 100% on the album. Thatís really the main reason we leave Texas to record. Weíre pretty sure thatís what weíre going to do for the next album. Our two best albums have come out it (Through the Darkest Hour and Adagio). And actually the Downfall album was recorded here in Dallas Texas.



Doesnít it cost a shit load to travel all the way from Texas to England?!? Who actually finances the traveling costs - the Record Label or is everything from your own pockets?!?

Yes it does and itís included in the recording budget that Massacre gives us. We could save a lot of money or just put it in our pockets if we stayed home, but we feel that we get the best results by recording over in the U.K. and that is the priority for us when it comes to SA. Ultimately though, we have to pay back what they give us through our royalties.



You did at least two albums for the Pavement Records. How come you decided to leave them?! Did you face these normal business problems or did they want you to change the musical approach of SA or something else?!? 

It was really more or less the fact that we couldnít do any more U.S. tours and that we had a chance to do better in the European market especially Germany so we felt that we needed to work with a label that was either based out of Europe or had a strong presence in Europe. Pavement had neither. They were cool enough to let us go, Iíll give them that, but theyíve been pretty bad about giving us statements on our album sales and weíve seen no money at all from them. I know theyíve recouped what they spent on us so....



The creation process of the debut album ďInto the Depths of SorrowĒ has a very colorful history behind it before it ended up to be licensed by Roadrunner, there used to be floating around some adv. tape versions among tape traders of the debut album before it saw the light of day, could you tell a little bit more about the history of one of the greatest doom metal albums, what went wrong in the early stage until it got out?!?

Well firstly thanks for the compliments on the album! We had originally signed a deal with King Klassic Records out of Illinois and we agreed to pay for the recording of the album if they would manufacture and distribute it. So we went into the studio in January of 1990 to record it. After it was done, we decided that the mix sucked and so we saved some money up and remixed it at a different studio in May of 1990. Then we gave the finished master to King Klassic and they decided to shop it around instead of putting it out. I was a bit shocked and pissed off about this. And even more so when RoadRunner liked it and gave us an advance of $8000 which we had to split with King Klassic. They did nothing and got $4000. Hell, I could have shopped it around! We spent $2500 on a lawyer and the album cost us $2500 so we effectively lost $1000 on it - but we didnít care too much, we just wanted it out. The album finally came out in June/July of 1991 a year and half after it was recorded!



After getting dropped, you were allowed to leave Roadrunner/Roadracer. I came across some pieces of news at that time the legendary doom metal label Hellhound had expressed some interest in picking SA up, but their offer was turned down instead by you?!?

We were glad to get off of Roadrunner as they really werenít behind the band at all. I first heard the news from Lee Dorian - he knew we were dropped before I did! Thank god that happened though. Hellhound was sorta interested but they didnít like Roberts vocals, so they decided not to pick us up. Pavement was very enthusiastic so we went with them.



The last SA album titled Adagio was released by the Massacre Rec. Do you still have a valid deal with them or was the whole deal with basically based on the one off and you are now allowed to team up with any label which you want?!?

We are signed to Massacre for 4 more records.



Hmm as stated above about your label Brain Ticket, because now I am unfamiliar with the current deal situation with Massacre so if you are without any deal, so is it now possible to release the new upcoming Solitude Aeturnus album on your own label and then agree to have a license deal with bigger labels, I mean it would be easier to control all the sales and distribution and look after everything goes in the expected and planned ways?!?

Yes, but Brainticket is a small label and I donít have as much money as some of these other labels can offer Solitude Aeturnus so rather than be greedy and try to get SA on my label I would rather deal with a label that can give us more support than what Brainticket is able to.



Stupid question, but letís ask it anyway ! It seems like your albums have been released everywhere throughout all kinds of various license deals, do you as a matter of fact have any idea of how many times your albums have been licensed by all kinds of weird and obviously not so reliable labels ?!?

I donít really have any idea just how many labels have licensed our product. I mean, I know of a few but canít really keep up with all of them. It doesnít matter to me anyway - we never make money from this band so I just donít care.



Well speaking of Brainticket Rec, what sort of bands does the record label have, could you tell a little bit more about your record label business and secondly are you looking for some certain type of bands for the bill of the label ?!?

I started the label in 1994 because I was sick of seeing so many good bands not having the opportunity to present their music to the world. I really did start the label out of sheer passion to release quality heavy music. Of course itís much more difficult than anyone would ever know, and it becomes quite a strain after a while but Iím still committed to it to this day. It takes an enormous amount of money to run a label and even more time to do it. As for the types of bands I look for, I really just look for bands that are heavy and quality. No mediocre stuff, only bands that have something different about them. It doesnít have to be doom metal either. I love all kinds of heavy music so Iím very much into doing all kinds of stuff. Just as long as itís good, heavy music.



Could you recommend some bands for readers from Brain Ticket and give a reason why they should picked up from stores ?!?

Sure, Iím still a huge fan of metal and heavy music in general! Some of my current favorites would be Thunderstorm - Sad Symphony, Pentagram - Sub Basement, Penance - Alpha and Omega, Jag Panzer - Mechanized Warfare and Gorilla - S/T. I recommend them all for the same reason; they are all classy, powerful, heavy and write good songs! Also a German psych band called Weltraumstaunen is amazing!



When I interviewed you last time a year ago or something ago like mentioned about having reached a point that you are unable to travel and tour anymore because of the family commitments to take care of bills and getting the food and roof over the head. Is it so now Solitude Aeturnus will never hit the road again and instead mainly focus on doing one gig here and there like, especially in the area of Texas and the upcoming Stoner Hands Of Doom festival gig there in Texas?!?

Yeah, Iím afraid thatís mostly the case, although we are able to do some short tours in Europe. You know, two weeks or something like that. Itís easier to tour Europe, because everything is paid for and we donít lose any money (we donít make any either). The states are much harder to tour because itís so big and our style just doesnít draw enough people to make it possible.



I noticed you doing a lot of gigs in the local bar called ďTattoo BarĒ, does the whole bands always gather there to take some beer and play a gig at the same time and have some fun or Ö.?!?

Itís a really small bar close to where we live and a pretty cool place to play and drink some beer. Quite a few touring bands will play there (Crowbar, Soilent Green, Spirit Caravan etc...). We donít hang out there all the time but it is a fun place to meet with people.



Oh yeah I canít help what kind of following Solitude Aeturnus actually have in the home state, I mean you have gigs there quite often for example you played in the Houston Bang Your Head fest, do you pull the audience to your shows enough ?!?

We draw a pretty decent size amount of people anytime we play in Texas, simply because we donít play that often!



Letís change the topic a little bitÖBefore Solitude Aeturnus was formed you used to thrash in the local thrash band Rotting Corpse, could you tell a little bit more about your early thrash/death metal days?!?

Thatís a long time ago! Iíve always been into extreme metal since 1980! I remember buying the first Venom album, Witchfynde, Witchfinder General, Motorhead, Holocaust etc.. all when they came out! Thatís how old I am (36 this year - 2002!). So, naturally I started getting into the very early death metal scene with bands like Slayer, Bathory, Hellhammer, Venom. I wanted to form a band much in the vein of Celtic Frost as I really loved the combination of super heavy Sabbath riffs mixed with evil thrashing death speed! Rotting Corpse was formed for this reason. However, I didnít do much of the song writing at the time and most of the music came out sounding like early Exodus or Metallica - which was ok with me as both those bands were some of the greatest at the time. The scene back then was exciting and fresh! Rotting Corpse was one of the first thrash bands from our area as we formed in late 1985 and underground metal was still very much underground (in fact no-one around here even knew who Slayer even was!). After a few years of that, I realized that my true calling in the metal world was to write heavier, slower music with more melody. Something that stood the test of time. So , Solitude was born.



When Rotting Corpse was founded in the early 80ís there wasnít that much of those kinds of bands until 85-87 when the whole thrash thing came out in the wake of the immense success of Slayerís Reign In Blood and a few other great great classic death/thrash metal bands and the Texas thrash metal scene got an entire new expression as a lot of bands popped up like Morbid Scream, Gammacide, Rigor Mortis, Devastation and so on. The local scene was flourishing indeed, what made you pull out of the thrash scene then?!?

I think this was answered above - but once again, I didnít want to be part of a trend and I found thrash/death metal to be very limiting with what it had to offer.



Could you ever think of reforming Rotting Corpse or is the relationship between other guys kinda inflamed so badly that you canít even communicate to each other and if you happen to see each other on the street someone gotta switch to another side of the pavement ?!?

Nah - I still see a few of the guys. Dave Gryder, the drummer, is still around doing a progressive hard rock band, Mo Queen is a roadie for Pantera, Walt runs a bus company. Speaking of Rotting Corpse, I will be releasing the 3 song demo as part of a Texas retrospective Metal compilation Iím putting out in a few months on Brainticket Records. It will also feature Milita, Death Tripper, Watchtower, Warlock, Valkyrie, Wyzard and more!



By the way I canít help asking this one. You have been involved in the underground metal scene for about 20 years and seen the glorious years of thrash metal, so what do you actually think of all these reunion things in general?! Ok Thrash of the Titans was a triumphal benefit gig consisting of old Bay Area thrashers, but seems like some of them will carry on, but several old German thrash bands have returned from ashes and a lot of small bands are back as well, to be honest the list could be massive if all of them was named here?!?

Yeah, itís ok by me - as long as the music is worthy. But even if itís not - it would still be cool to see some of the old bands again playing some of the old songs. Nothing wrong with some nostalgia! By the way the new Kreator album is fucking great - like their old days!



Do you long for the good old doom metal genre of the 80ís when for example the Swedish Candlemass used to be the most leading band in the genre and they were great, or do you prefer the current flourishing more stoner oriented style?!?

Actually I could care less one way or the other. Good music is good music to me, no matter what the style. If you think about it, when Candlemass were really big, there were only a few other doom bands around. Vitus, Trouble, Pentagram and maybe Dream Death. So, actually the doom scene is even better now than ever with quite a few bands doing the pure doom style. I like quite a bit of the so called stoner bands as well. It just depends on if they write good songs or not. You can tell by listening if theyíve taken their time or not. I will admit that the stoner scene is way overcrowded right now with lots of mediocre bands - but that will work it self out.



When being a tour manager for Electric Wizard and Warhorse in the early of this year (2001), what kind of response did you get from the people on the tour and how did you view and feel about the US doom or should I say the current state of the stoner/doom genre ?!?

Both bands did a great job on tour and I was amazed at how many people showed up at the shows!! It was incredible. Renewed my faith that people want to hear heavy as fuck music. I guess itís a lot more popular than I thought.



What about the side project band called Concept of God run by vocalist Robert Lowe, why this project was founded by the way and what kind of stuff they play?!?

Well that was just a project only. They did a few shows and recorded some material in the studio that is still not finished (need mixing and a few more parts recorded). I donít know when it will come out though. Concept of God was mostly our bass players music and Roberts lyrics. Itís similar in style to solitude although with a bit more traditional feel and some ďyngwieĒ inspired guitar playing as Steve is one hell of a guitar player. They started it really just because Steve had some ideas that werenít really suited for Solitude and we werenít doing anything at the time so...



All right John Perez, before putting the period to this interview I gotta inquire your music faves and book faves too. What inspire you to write the music?!?

For books, I usually only read non-fiction books. Culture books on the 60ís and drug study books are currently on my bedside table. I listen to a lot of psychedelic music - mostly to obscure, new underground bands like The Pillbugs, the Virgineers, Dipsomaniacs, Dead Flowers, Rockfour, On Trial, Ozric Tentacles and the like. Inspiration really comes from within these days. I donít really know - just fooling around with my guitar until I hit on some riffs and song ideas that sound good and then go from there.



I for one thank you from the button of my heart for this chance to have this long interview with you. All the best for Solitude Aeturnus and your record label BrainTicket. And of course you now have an opportunity to express the final words !

Thanks for the interview and sorry it took so long to get back to you. Be on the lookout for the release of my second solo album, The Liquid Sound Company - Inside the Acid Temple due out in April of 2002. Take acid, drink ale, collect records, be true to yourself, deny the Christian hypocrites and follow your own path. Stay heavy.

1988: 'And Justice For All...' (Demo)
1990: 'Into the Depths of Sorrow' (CD)
1992: 'Beyond The Crimson Horizon' (CD)
1994: 'Through The Darkest Hour' (CD)
1996: 'Downfall' (CD)
199?: 'Through The Darkest Hour/Downfall' (2CD)
1998: 'Adagio' (CD)
199?: 'And Justice For All...' (Re-release on Vinyl)

www.solitudea.com  /  www.brainticket.com


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