Heart of Steel: Interviews

WINDS: Interview with Keyboardist Andy Winter

Interview By EvilG

Winds are from Norway and is comprised of: Lars Eric Si on vocals (Jack In A Box, Sensa Anima, Khold); Carl August Tidemann on guitars (Arcturus, Tritonus); Jan Axel von Blomberg (AKA Hellhammer) on drums (Mayhem, Arcturus, Kovenant); and Andy Winter (the mastermind behind this album and the production) on keyboards. I was given the opportunity to interview Andy to talk about the band's unique mixture of classical with metal along with a host of other things! 


Since Winds is a new band to many, lets start with some history. The band is a "super group" of sorts. Was the plan at the beginning to form such a band?

No, this was not our motivation at all. Basically Winds started out as a project but evolved into a band along the way, and it was more important that the members would bring something unique to our sound rather than just having people with famous names. We could have involved a lot more famous people into this if we wanted to, but since that was never the intention we havenít done so, and we wonít either, because Winds functions best with just the four of us.


Would you call Winds a band, or more so a "project"?

Winds is a band consisting of the four of us, Lars, Carl, Jan Axel and me. We are the equal members of the band known as Winds. But we also have guest appearances on our records, and we might consider expanding these even more in the future.


Who formed the band and how did the members come together?

The band was formed based upon a mutual vision to make the project Winds, which was originally started by me, into a permanent band. This happened right after we worked on the first recording, and by the time it was even released we were already functioning as a band. We had started on new material together, and we completed the basic recording of the new album right around the same time the first one was released.


Since each member is involved musically with other bands/projects, how do you manage the time restrictions?

We manage this by focusing very individually on the preparations for Winds. But even so Winds is a big priority for all the members so we set aside time for it to work together on the material etc. But we donít rehearse at the same rate conventional bands to, as this is not necessary for us. We spend more time discussing the arrangements and planning the elements in the music, so that we have an idea what to do in the studio. We also use a lot of improvisation, because this captures a unique expression that is impossible to plan ahead.


How is the average Winds song composed? Is the foundation the drums/bass/guitars and then you look at how to fit the keys/orchestration over this? Or is it more so the other way around?

So far it has more so been the other way around, as Iíve usually started writing either piano or string parts and then Carl has made guitar arrangements after hearing my ideas. But sometimes itís the other way around, as there are no absolute rules. The general formula so far has been that I write the basic ideas and then the others add their arrangements to complete the compositions. But during this process we also keep open communication with each other, and we discuss things and exchange ideas on each otherís arrangements before anything is definitely decided.


In the album's liner notes it mentions the album was "conceived" in a studio and it goes on to list some musicians (voice, violin, viola, cello, and bass). Are we to assume that these players and instruments (along with yourself) are the ones responsible for writing the bulk of this album?

The only ones who wrote music for this album were the members in the band. The string players were session musicians only and did not play a single note that wasnít already written on their sheet.


Tell me about the involvement of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. How did that come about and did you "conduct" them on what to play? What was it like recording their parts for the album?

As mentioned they only played what they were told to by us. Lars had the ungrateful job of transcribing down all the sheet music based on the string arrangements he and I had written. This process was very stressful, and we didnít have as much time in the studio with the strings players as we ideally needed because they had to play a concert the same evening. But it worked out and we barely finished in time.


Do you consider the guitars and lead playing an important part of Winds?

Yes itís a very important part. The solos are one of the trademarks of Winds that makes our sound unique, and ďReflections Of The IĒ is a very guitar driven album as well, more so than our first release. Every member in the band has an equally important role, and is irreplaceable.


How do you approach mixing together so many and such diverse instruments?

In my opinion this is the major challenge of our music, because it has so many elements and itís important that they are all heard in the mix without overshadowing each other. So we spend a lot of time in the studio listening to potential solutions, and hopefully we make the right decisions along the way. This is where my producer role comes into the picture too, because I make the major decisions on mixing and sound when they need to be made. I also have a great engineer who knows what heís doing, and the other guys who give valuable input in this process as well.


Winds is one of the bands whose sound presents a seamless mixture of "metal" with orchestration. Has this been the biggest challenge for you, or has this come naturally?

Iíd like to think that this has come naturally to us. Weíve just tried to do what we feel is right, both musically, technically and production wise, and weíre happy that it has turned out as well as it did. And we are indeed extremely satisfied with the results.


What bands or composers from both the classical and metal realms do you listen to or have influenced you?

I have a hard time naming influences because if there are any at all, I donít easily recognize them. For my piano parts Rachmaninov and Shostakovitch are inspirations, for Carlís guitars I think Paganini has had some influence, along with Yngwie and early Dream Theater. There are probably a lot of underlying influences, but as we donít set out to play music similar to anyone elseís, these influences are very subtle, and we donít sound anything like these bands or composers. In Winds everything is placed into a setting that takes on an individuality of its own.


Do you derive any of your classical influence from movies and movie soundtracks?

I recently bought the soundtrack from the movie K-Pax after liking it very much, but again there is a difference between liking something and having it influence you. I honestly donít think any of us have many direct influences as weíve always set out to do our own thing, both individually and as a band.


What is your opinion on other bands that use classical elements or orchestration in their music such as Rhapsody and Blind Guardian for example?

I havenít heard any of those bands, so I canít comment on that.


What style of music would you call Winds, or would you think that the music is so diverse the band doesn't fit into any single genre that well?

We have categorically left the job of classifying our music up to others, as we donít feel it necessary to classify our own music. But it is true that our music doesnít fit into just one category, as there are elements in the music from almost any organic genre. There are classical and jazzy elements, rock and metal elements and so on. We prefer to just play our music in stead of putting names on it, and hopefully people will appreciate what we do regardless of what itís called.


What types of people do you expect will enjoy the music of Winds? Metal fans? Classical music fans?

Hopefully both. I think anyone with appreciation for music can in some way appreciate this album, if nothing else for itís musical qualities. But we hope a lot of people will like it as well, and find it rewarding, because this is very emotional music played with the greatest of passion behind it.


Does the band do any touring?

We havenít so far, but maybe in the future.


Since the classical / orchestration elements are such a big part of Winds, how are you able to play these parts live? Is it done using a combination of samples and keys?

This is also something we will have to decide upon. The first option is obviously the most appealing, but will probably be impossible to achieve in reality due to the astronomical costs of hiring these musicians. No tour promoter would do it because itís too much of a financial risk. Having the classical parts on tape might be an option, but it depends, because that will also require some technical expertise and personnel. Weíll see.


REFLECTIONS OF THE I is the first album for you on The End Records. How did the band hook up with this label?

The End contacted me first, and then they contacted our European label Avantgarde Music, who had the worldwide rights to the album. After that, The End bought the rights for the US from Avantgarde.


What does the album title refer to?

It has a double meaning. It refers to the lyrical concept as well the fact that the album is a reflection of us as musicians.


What types of messages or feelings do you like to write about and can you perhaps give a run down on some examples from the new album?

The lyrics are a concept based on existentialism and philosophy. I donít really like to get into the details of the lyrics too much.


What is the next step for Winds?

Weíre doing a lot of promotion for the album these days, and weíre also in the process of writing new material.


Has writing begun for the next album and if so what kinds of things can we expect?

Yes we have already begun and are well into the process. Expect the next level in the Winds chapter. Weíre going to be introducing some new and re-introduce some old elements into the sound, and weíre also going to challenge ourselves musically and technically to create an album even better than what weíve ever done before. Weíre always driven to outdo ourselves, because this is one of the things we thrive on.


Do you have a tentative release date for the next album?

Well we just released this one today so donít expect anything more from us this year. Maybe next year. Probably next year. In the mean time weíll let people absorb this one, because this is the kind of album that really grows on you over time.

Band Website: www.winds.nu
Distribution: www.theendrecords.com

The WINDS album, REFLECTIONS OF THE I, received a crossfire review in Metal-Rules.com in April 2002. Check it out here!

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