The title of your new album can be interpreted in many different ways. What did you have in mind when you named it "The God Machine"?
If you listen close, we have the phrase "god machine" in just about every song I think. It's an idea that came to me as an album title, but I couldn't decide what it really meant, because it could be interpreted so many different ways, and when I asked my friends, band mates and family what it meant to them, they all had a different take on it! That's when I thought we really had a great title because having that ability to mean so many different things to everybody makes it unique. To me your body is a god machine. The political system here in the US relies so heavily on saying they believe in god, that it is a god machine. The church is a god machine. The media turns ordinary humans into celebrities or gods. It is a god machine. The planet is a god machine, etc., etc.
You shot two video clips and made a lyric video. Why did you pick those three tunes in particular to promote the album with? Are they the strongest ones in the set in your opinion or are they just your favourite ones?
We had a lot of discussion about which songs would grab our fans' attention, and what ones would attract new fans the most and just decided we should use the most up tempo and "heavy" and catchy songs for the videos. I love all the songs on this album, so it could have been any of the songs for the videos really. "Damnation Calling", "Life=Love=God Machine" is melodic hard rock, "Buried and Broken" is a half ballad, "Between Love and Hate" is NWoBHM. We could have used any of the songs to present whichever side of the band we wanted to highlight. It was a tough choice, but the band and the label ultimately decided on those three.
Speaking of videos, I think I've read somewhere that you were planning to make clips for the remaining seven tunes as well?
Yes, we are making videos for all the songs! We just really believe in the power and variety of the album and want to keep pushing it. Personally, I can listen to it all day, not because I'm in love with my music, but I can't get enough of the kick ass drums! Oh yeah, and the vocals are freaking on fire! Jon Paget laid down some wicked solos that I still can't figure out how he played them, and Vince just killed it on the low, vibing bass lines. I just can't believe I was part of such an awesome album that came together so well. By the way, did I mention Henrik Udd's killer mix? Never in my life have I had such an ass kicking mix and sound for one of my albums. I just love it. Sorry, I'll stop effusing now. I'm sure it can get a little sickening when an artist thinks his new album is his best...
Some of the songs on the album have a strong hard rock vibe, they sound like Whitesnake or Purple or Rainbow on steroids. This style wasn't really there on your previous albums, so where did it come from?
It's always been there in the background. There are so many things in music I like, and I try and always present ideas that I haven't on prior albums because I hate to repeat myself. I don't care much for bands that stick to their established style/mode/way of doing things all the time. I think as an artist we need to stretch out and take risks and chances to grow and get better. It's just like life in general. So it probably doesn't surprise anyone I love old Rainbow and Purple, as a matter of fact they were some of the first "heavy" bands I heard. I'm into jazz, classical, soul and early hard rock and NWoBHM a lot, and I really just stopped listening to bands with growlers because I feel like they don't add much to the music. They don't really add melody or sophisticated harmony, so why do they get paid to be in the band, when the other guys have to create something more musical? Why can't I just scratch my strings, or yank on my whammy bar for an entire song and get paid to play music? It's very similar to growling, isn't it? Anyway, I really have been listening to music with high musical content for the last 10 or 15 years, and it was natural for me to do the same, and not play some of the more atonal, imperfect harmony and melody that doesn't quite work. I've been working more on complex math and music has become a bit more of a proper equation where there is one "right answer" to me. Though I may get to that answer a number of different ways.
So, you've got a new singer, whom you've known before, as he mixed/mastered your previous album. So, when Rick wasn't available, was Lia the obvious choice, or did you hold auditions?
We actually had a different singer named Russ Friend at first, and I had never thought about Lia. We gave Russ all the 9 songs that we had written so far, and he began to work, but only fully completed one after about 6-7 months, and he told us about how busy he was with his job and family, so we decided it wasn't really going to work because we wanted to get the album out in a more timely fashion. I had been sending the demos over to Lia to talk about mix ideas, and he mentioned they could use more harmony vocals. He said he could lay down a couple of the harmonies and we could keep them if we liked them, or just delete them. When he said that, I just got the idea "Why not do the lead vocals too?"!
What actually happened to Rick? As far as I know, you tried to contact him when you started working on the new album?
Who knows what happened to that guy?! I found out he quit because someone on facebook sent me a message trying to console me about Rick quitting. I said, "Rick hasn't quit". Then the guy copied and pasted Rick's post and sent it to me and I said, "Well, I'll be damned, I guess he did quit!" I told Vince, and then I tried to contact Rick by phone, text, facebook message and he wouldn't respond to any of them. What could we do? All of us quit making Steel Prophet music because of one member that didn't even care enough to work out a solution to his problems with his band mates? That wouldn't make sense to us, so we moved on. And good luck to him as one of our former mates! What a great voice; such power and clarity.
Lia's voice works very well with the new material, but what about the older tunes, recorded with Rick? Aren't the new versions too different or too weird for you?
Lia can sing just about anything, from Halford to Tate, Dickinson, Dio, etc. He can do Rick's material very well, and very consistently. We won't have any problems, I can assure you. It will be similar to Bruce singing the older songs of Paul DiAnno with Iron Maiden. Different, but equally cool in a lot of respects.
I think the title tune was actually written by Lia and some of the Mystic Prophecy guys, is that correct?
Yeah, the music was written by Lia and Evan from Mystic. I wrote the lyrics with Lia, and played a little bit of guitar on it.
And how did you land a deal with a Greek label? Was it just as simple as their offer was the best one?
Yeah, there were some offers, and they had the best offer in terms of percentages, and all that money stuff. They also had best commitment to the band we felt. They thought the combination of old school SP with Lia was going to produce something magical. They never even heard any of the songs with Lia. That's them using their imagination, and they felt like it was better than they dreamed it would turn out, so we are all happy with the deal.
Are you happy to finally have a Steel Prophet album released in Japan?
Yeah, I love Japan and the Japanese culture and many of the Japanese people I have met over the years. It was discouraging that our Nuclear Blast albums never were officially licensed there, so I was ecstatic to find out after all the decades, we finally had an official release there!
OK, last question about the new album. You've got one of the best cover arts I've seen in years. Was it your concept or did the artist have a free hand there?
Lia worked with Dusan Markovic at first, and they got my input eventually. It was Lia's concept at first, then Dusan sketched a bit, I had some suggestions and then Lia had more ideas, and finally it just morphed into that cover. It's pretty killer. Creating god machines in a church lab. Scary shit!
I first heard of Steel Prophet when I got a split CD with Jag Panzer, on Reborn Classics label. Do you remember that release? It was a bootleg, wasn't it?
Yeah, we heard from someone they picked up our CD and we thought, "We don't have a CD, we just have a demo tape on cassette". When we found out it was a split CD with Jag Panzer we were confused, but we also realised we were getting more popular, because people don't waste their time printing bootleg merch if they don't think it will sell. Apparently labels took notice too, because we got our first deal soon after that.
The band has gone through many line-up changes and now you're the only original member. Do you think if the original guys had stuck together, the band could have been bigger these days?
I think if "The God Machine" album came out in 1983 we would all have been rich and famous right now. I can't prove that, but I kind of believe it somehow. We can fantasise about fame and fortune all we want, but that doesn't change the fact I'm just an electrical engineer for a medical device company right now, with a love for my musical hobby band Steel Prophet.
And how did you manage to get the guys from the '80s line-ups back together?
Vince really pulled it all together to be honest. All the guys in the band love Vince. They hate me, but they love Vince, so when Vince asks, you just say yes. Simple.
What was the cause of the long hiatus 2004-2014?
I was so discouraged by our experience with Massacre, Intromental management, Nadir D'Priest and the "Beware" album, I just didn't want to have anything to do with the music business for many years. Vince somehow talked me into just getting together with him once a week to write songs, and then he got in touch with Rick, and I didn't really want to do it for myself, but I wanted to do it for him to be honest, because he's a great friend. So I just got slowly OK with it, and then I started to really enjoy it once we got back together with JT and Jon Paget from the "Inner Ascendance" demo. It was like everything that was great about being together with these guys still was there for me. I really like getting in the same room with these guys and joking around, bullshitting, eating, having some drinks and playing our music!
Power metal is a rather broad term these days, but there's quite a big difference between what we understand as Euro power metal and US power metal, that emerged much earlier. So, which power metal is more to your personal taste?
That's a tough question because it is on a band by band basis, and album by album basis. For example, I love Hammerfall's first album, but not their other ones. I love Helstar "Remnants of War", but none of the other ones. Helloween for example has the heavily "euro" sound "Keeper" albums, which are great, but then with Andy Deris they have the US sound, and I love the Andy Deris era a lot too! Overall, I don't like the happy hero power metal much unless it is very well done. Lethal's first album is great, and when USPM is played like that, I find it hard to resist. A lot of USPM leaves me very bored and cold because it is too technical. I never liked Watchtower very much or any Dream Theater other than "Images". That album is pretty much progressive power, which is what SP has been and what the early Fates Warning with John Arch is.
There's tons of good young bands around these days, playing classic metal. Do you keep in touch with the young scene?
Absolutely! I am very into a bunch of the NWoTHM bands like Riot City, Traveler, Vultures Vengeance, Night Demon, Smoulder, etc. and other bands like High Spirits, Emerald. Doom is one of my favourite genres, so Atlantean Kodex is really cool to me. There are a lot of great bands now that concentrate on melodic, powerful singing and interesting guitar patterns and harmonies. Some of them are doing much better than new albums from Maiden or Priest these days. I must say however Saxon seems to just get better all the time.
Will there be a chance to see you live in Europe any time soon, and I don't mean one-off appearances, but a proper tour?
We'll see. Depends on the sales figures really. I hope so, I haven't been to Europe since 2013 and I could really use a vacation! It's so cool when we play there and we see folks that have supported us since "Inner Ascendance" and have come out to all the festivals, and tours we have played there. Europe is a wonderful place to me; so culturally open minded and friendly. I love it there, and Northern Europe is so beautiful. Such a great land and environment. I'm a big fan of Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France.