Shadowside - Interview, May 2012
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Posted: 02 May 2012 at 1:53pm
Shadowside's most recent album Inner Monster Out was released worldwide not too long ago, and serves as a prime example of modern metal that combines melody and heaviness. We had a chat with the band's vocalist Dani Nolden who gives us an insider's view into the making of the album and also discusses the power of the groove and the importance of melody, among other things. Fans of modern groovy power metal, read on!
Hi Dani, thanks for wanting to do this interview.
It's a pleasure, thanks for having me!
Inner Monster Out has been out for almost a year now. How has it been received?
Actually it's been out for about 6 months in Brazil but it's a brand new album worldwide. We felt it would be a good way to test the waters so to speak. It was kinda our way to show people all over the world that it wasn't just us who thought the album was great (laughs). Fans in Brazil can be extremely demanding when it comes to a Brazilian band, they are picky when it comes to what bands they will support as the “country's representative”, which I think is really cool since it always pushes us to do better and better and surprise them. So I was really glad to see the album is getting a lot of positive feedback, in our country and abroad as well. Japanese magazine Burrn! gave it an excellent review, websites have been saying great things about the album and fans seem to agree with us and share our opinion that this is undoubtedly our best material to date.
How do you guys feel about the album?
We are all very proud of the album and it couldn't be any different because we really worked on it as a band, we were interested in pleasing ourselves and ourselves only. Success comes naturally when you do something you're really into, you know? So we focused on making music we love, something we would want to hear on the radio and something we would honestly want to buy if it had been done by another band. The four of us have really distinct influences... to the point of one hating what the other likes. But instead of arguing about musical differences, we embraced them. We would try anything, even if taken out of context, it would be something we would usually not listen to. When mixed with everything else, we found out it actually sounded very interesting. In the end, we all feel we created something of our own, with an identity, a mix of different personalities that work together like a perfect puzzle.
How would you describe the style of music that you play on the album?
Metal! (laughs) Whenever I try to come up with a subgenre for it, I can't ever seem to find the right one. We're Power Metal influenced and Thrash Metal influenced, we also have a bit of old-school and a bit of modern so it's hard to label it, perhaps people listening to it will be able to label it better since they're not so immersed in the music like we are. But subgenres aside, it's very heavy, angry and intense Metal music, with catchy choruses, a little bit of the extreme metal with some of the melodic metal. We are in between both worlds and that's why I'm so happy with the music we're creating. I love the energy of extreme metal but I miss the melodies when I listen to it and that's what we aimed for on Inner Monster Out. Energy, noise and music coming together.
Can you explain the idea behind the cover artwork?
It's about the main topic I wrote about on the lyrics: the human mind. We are all full of surprises, nuances, we are all a little bit crazy in a way and that's exactly what makes us “normal”. The lyrics go a lot into fears, dreams, perversions, personality disorders, escapism, duality. There are lots of facets of a person's mind and that's what the cover is about. The Inner Monster Out is someone's true self being revealed. It's a journey through a person's mind. The man inside the head is yourself taking a deep look into what you have in your head and all those different faces inside are the different, unique sides of the self.
While primarily a metal album to my ears, there are a lot of more rock-oriented moments on the album. Is this something you guys consciously take into account in the songwriting process?
Not consciously but it's definitely there, I agree with you. It happens probably because we don't limit ourselves when it comes to the creative process, we don't care what it is, if it sounds good, we keep it. It isn't much of a risk for us to do that because it's not like suddenly we'll start liking techno music or rap and experimenting with stuff like that (laughs). But we definitely allow into our music everything we like and that isn't necessarily Metal. Hard Rock is the one thing we all can agree on in the band (laughs). Even though we can't agree on which band is our favorite Hard Rock band, we all love the genre. We all grew up listening to it, some of us to Queensrÿche, some of us to Skid Row like myself, Raphael and I also like Foo Fighters a lot. If you listen to our tour bus iPod, you'll think we are absolutely crazy because it will go from Yes to Slayer (laughs). So for sure, we are a Rock influenced Metal band.
I’ve read in a review that Inner Monster Out represents a change in style compared to Theatre of Shadows and Dare to Dream. Do you agree with this statement, and, if yes, why and how is Inner Monster Out different from the two previous albums?
I agree, even though we have never changed what people first liked about Shadowside, which are the melodies, the energy and those Rock influences. We kept that, not only to make sure we wouldn't forget about our roots but also because that's what we really wanted to keep. Everything else was kinda in the perfection process. I feel that on Theatre of Shadows, we had very little personality because we were a very young band. Our average age at that time was 17 so back then, we were afraid to do something that was too different from the bands we listened to. Sometimes we'd come up with something different but since we had no references for it, we would automatically think it wasn't good. On Dare to Dream, we noticed that flaw and went the opposite way – we wanted to make sure we sounded nothing like the bands we listened to. On Inner Monster Out, we found the balance. We're not worried about what other bands are doing or aren't doing anymore and that was very relieving. We are finally free as artists, we are more mature now so we did exactly what we were looking for since day one. I feel Inner Monster Out is a grown up album and a bit more current sounding.
The riffs on Inner Monster Out strike me as being heavier and groovier than on the previous albums. Has the groove and heaviness enriched the Shadowside sound in general?
Being a fan of groove and heaviness, I would say absolutely! That's something that was fighting to get out on our previous albums (laughs). Songs like 'Life Denied' from the Dare to Dream album are a clear example of that and we wanted to take it one step further this time. I think it added something special to the music. We like our music straight to the point, hitting you right in the gut but it has to be fun to play as well.
A track like 'In the Name of Love', for instance, features some pretty heavy riffage, but is at the same time also very melodic. Did you deliberately aim for this equilibrium between heaviness and melody?
Yeah, always! We love it heavy and to me personally, there can never be such thing as “too heavy”. If it doesn't sound massive and heavy to the point to get you headbanging, it's not heavy enough yet. And the way we balance that so it doesn't get boring is with the melodies. Too melodic without the punch... that's definitely not what we want. We'll make it beautiful and angry at the same time without going for “beauty and the beast” type of music. It's also a really nice mixture... to have something very musical going on with a brutal instrumental behind it like on 'In the Name of Love' as you just said and 'My Disrupted Reality', 'I'm Your Mind' and 'Waste of Life' being good examples of that as well.
The vocal melody of the chorus in 'Gag Order' is pretty awesome. How on Earth did you guys come up with that?
Thanks! I honestly have no idea (laughs). I just remember being home, staring at the sky at about 2, 3am which is my usual songwriting time. Raphael had the song written but he had no melodies for it. Actually, he had melodies but he refused to show them to me, because they had been written by a friend of his so instead he told me he'd rather hear what I would come up with first. He said what I did was a shock because it was completely different than what his friend had but that he really liked it so we kept it. I started playing with words like the “storm calls me back home” because that's what I always feel when I'm on tour and it's raining... rain reminds me of home because it rains a lot here, especially in January when it rains pretty much every single day... and with that sentence done, I just started singing, improvising some melodies, like a guitarist would improvise a solo and that's how those melodies “happened”. Once I sang them, they got stuck in my head so it stayed. It was supposed to be a lot more complex with some low counter-singing and all but then when we heard it in the studio, we just thought less was more and adding crap to it would ruin the whole thing so we kept the simple version. 'Gag Order' was in fact the first song we ever presented to our fans from the Inner Monster Out album. We played it live for the first time in Italy, in 2010, as a way to see how people would react to the direction we wanted to take with the album. I told them to scream if they loved it and to be quiet if they thought it was shit. Everybody screamed so we took it as the crowd's approval and moved on (laughs).
The choruses in general are very catchy on Inner Monster Out. What’s the secret behind writing good and catchy choruses?
For me, it's usually writing the chorus first. I write all my songs backwards (laughs). Since the chorus is, to me, the most important part of the song, I write it first so I don't limit it. I don't like writing a chorus around a song because I feel that in that situation, I'm limited to what fits that particular song so I prefer to write a song for the chorus instead. Of course that's not a rule and it can be done differently, like I just mentioned with 'Gag Order', usually when the guys ask me to write melodies for a song or I'm finishing a song that was half done, the order has to be different and then I just keep playing around until I'm happy with what I hear. However, it's crucial that you trust your band and you hear their opinions. That's essential for writing not only great choruses but great songs. There were lots of songs, melodies, arrangements and riffs that we all did together. The guys changed and wrote melodies, we all wrote guitar riffs so it wasn't just one of us saying “here is the song, play it as I wrote”. When we tell each other something isn't good, we do it with the best intentions and we all know it so we don't feel personally attacked, we don't have egos when it comes to songwriting. That helps a lot when you're creating the perfect chorus.
What was the writing process for Inner Monster Out like, and did it differ from the writing process of the previous two albums?
It was completely different, we had never worked like that before. Raphael and I came up with half the ideas each; however, none of the songs you hear on Inner Monster Out sound exactly like our demos. We really wrote everything as a band this time, completely stripped of egos, with no intentions of personal glory, that's one of the reasons why we credited all the songs on the album to “Shadowside”. We'd bring our demos to the studio and then we'd reconstruct them together. We changed structures, riffs, melodies, added and removed parts. And we kept working on them until the four of us were totally happy. “Okay” wasn't enough. “Majority wins” wasn't acceptable. It was either unanimity or we'd keep changing it. And we wanted that since the beginning. Knowing it would be like that, and succeeding in making it like that made the whole process extremely fun, easy and stress-free. No fights. Just a lot of fun and real fulfillment as artists. It took a lot off everyone's shoulders because we knew nothing was entirely one's responsibility. No one had to create on their own and no one would have to take the blame alone if it had failed. We were in it together and now we get to share as a group the success of what we did together. It didn't happen that way in the past. It used to be two people in charge of songwriting and it comes to a point that you just start copying yourself. I feel that writing as band helped us inspire each other and make us all think in different ways. 'Waste of Life', for instance... that song was written in 15 minutes and it's probably the band's favorite. I had a chorus and bridge, but had no idea what to do with them. Raphael had some riffs he had no idea what to do with them. So we changed both slightly so they'd fit together. Then Fabio had said he always wanted a song that started off right with vocals so we did it, then added some riffs and solos and voila... a song done effortlessly. I don't see myself working differently than this in the future, at least not in Shadowside.
There’s also a cover version of 'The Ace of Spades' on the album. Why did you choose to cover this particular song?
First of all, because we are all Motörhead fans. Who isn't? (laughs) So it was partially an homage to Lemmy and Motörhead. Secondly, it was Fabio's idea that it would be cool to hear a female singing a song like that. The idea was never to make it better than the original, because that would be impossible, the original is already perfect. We just wanted to have fun making our version and hearing what it would be like if that song had been written for us. As always, the choice was entirely based on how much fun we'd have recording it. We thought of making a Metal version of Lily Allen's 'Fuck you', but that would have been funny, not fun. So we went with 'Ace of Spades' instead.
Are there any specific bands that served as major sources of inspiration for Shadowside when you wrote the music for Inner Monster Out?
Not really, I think everything we all listen to or grew up listening to served and will always serve as a source of inspiration for us. It's hard to find a few specific bands to draw inspiration from for Shadowside because none of us have the same favorite bands so we would never reach an agreement (laughs). Fabio's favorite bands are, as bizarre as it may sound, Tears for Fears and Slayer, Raphael's is Pantera, mine... mine changes with the weather (laughs). I can listen to Queen, Deep Purple and Rammstein on the same day. While we weren't really trying to sound like our favorite bands, obviously our writing, playing and singing has been influenced by what we listen to but it's nothing we do consciously.
How about you as a vocalist? Are there any singers that you would highlight as having influenced your singing style?
Dani: Mostly male singers, usually high pitched but with attitude like Sebastian Bach, Steven Tyler, Rob Halford, Paul Stanley. I used to sing along to Queen when I was 8 trying to mimic Freddy Mercury's singing. I tend to like unusual voices, those you recognize instantly.
Speaking of your singing style, I really like your singing in general, but your vocals are very powerful on Inner Monster Out. Would you say that you have grown as a singer since Theatre of Shadows?
There's no doubt about it... I never aim to be the best singer in the world because I don't believe there is such a thing as the ultimate best. There's always the best in one's opinion. The best singer in the world for me may be Steven Tyler but for another person it will be Geoff Tate, for someone else it will be Bruce Dickinson and in the end it comes down to personal taste. So that's something I definitely don't have as a goal. I also don't believe in competing in music. But against myself, I am extremely competitive. I don't ever want to stay in one place and never move forward so I'm always working on my personal skills, first because I'd hate to limit a song because of a limitation as a singer, second because I always think there's room for improvement, in anybody. So whenever we are working on new material, I do everything I can to perform what I did before better and to add new things I wasn't able to perform before. I don't want to give just what the fans expect, you know? If you don't give them something new, a positive shock, then you stop growing. They'll get “used” to you and as impressed as they were with you before, that feeling will go away and you'll become boring. So I keep practicing, studying, I'll always push my limits, even if it's something I don't plan on using a song... you never know, someday it might be useful!
Compared to many other female vocalist in the metal world, you have a very dark and powerful voice. How do people in general react to your singing?
There's a funny story about people's reactions... a few years ago, we were on a website where people could blindly review a band. They didn't know the band name nor could see a band photo. However they could vote on several categories when they were listening to it... like you could pick that song had the best male or female vocalist, best guitarist, etc. I ended up being voted “best male vocalist” (laughs). They were shocked at the moment they found out I was a female, many came to apologize (laughs). That never bothered me though, I thought it was extremely funny to “trick” people like that. Once we were also accused by a fan that we had gotten commercial, because we had replaced the “former male singer” for a female just to cash in on the woman image. Turns out he had only listened to the songs and never saw a photo so he had no idea I have been the band's vocalist since the first rehearsal (laughs). Many don't believe it's a female singing at first. When people get to know us by going to a show with a friend or when we support another band, they immediately assume they'll hear an angel-like voice and are very surprised when they find out it's nothing like that. It really entertains me. I love the idea of the play between a very feminine image with an almost masculine voice when singing. It's like the guys that sound like women, just the opposite (laughs).
Are there any songs on Inner Monster Out that you would highlight as being especially important to you?
That would probably be 'Angel with Horns' as it's the song I feel best represents the album. It has everything we've done on Inner Monster Out: the heaviness, the melodies, a touch of fun, a lot of energy, something for people to bang their heads to and also sing. It makes it clear that we're the type of band that wants to have a great time with the crowd on stage and writes songs meant to be played live.
What are your favorite tracks of the Shadowside-EP and Dare to Dream and Theatre of Shadows respectively?
Dani: The EP is just a demo so there's only one song on that CD that isn't on Theatre of Shadows, which is the song “Shadowside”, one that I absolutely hate so I hope it's forever forgotten (laughs). So my favorites would be 'In the Night' on Dare to Dream and 'Highlight' on Theatre of Shadows. It's been forever since I last heard Theatre of Shadows though... I might find out I actually like other songs better once I hear it again.
What does the future have in store for your fans? Have you lined any great gigs up for the summer or are your working on new material?
We are definitely going to tour, tour, tour and tour some more in the near future! We always have new material to work on but I feel it's way too early now since the album is about to be released in Europe. We'll play a lot in Brazil and then hope to hit the road internationally. We are looking forward to go back to all the countries we've been before and maybe add some to that list as well.
Thank you very much for doing this interview. Do you have any message for the MMA-readers?
I hope you all enjoy the Inner Monster Out and go crazy to it, play it loud, maybe we'll meet soon at a show where you are. It's been a little over a year since we last toured and I already miss it like crazy. Cheers!
Best of luck in the future.
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