Binary Creed – Never Looking BackMonday, 25th September 2017
As humans, we grow through the natural evolution we call life. From childhood to adulthood, experiences and environment beyond friends and family shape us into becoming who we are. Channeling that into the expressive art form of music, it’s natural to find people who come to terms with what they’ve accomplished in the past while also striving to become vital and vibrant in the current market place.
Although starting as a part of Swedish power/progressive metal band Binary Creed in 2013, vocalist Andreas Stoltz also has a longer history of work. Most notably to metal fans as being a part of Hollow, who were signed to Nuclear Blast and put out two records on the label during the late 90’s and early 2000’s before breaking up. That act would be more straightforward in their power approach, whereas Binary Creed delivers a melodic cocktail of riffs and hooks that reach into that Queensrÿche/ Savatage bag of tricks, along with some Crimson Glory/ Morgana Lefay flairs in terms of atmosphere and texture.
Following copious playbacks of their second album, the outstanding A Battle Won, we reached out to Andreas regarding his music progressions, time with Hollow, the conceptual themes behind the Binary Creed albums, and delved a little into where the metal scene has moved over the decades.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about your earliest memories regarding music growing up in childhood? How did you make the jump into heavy metal and eventually wanting to start performing in your own original bands?
Andreas Stoltz: I come from a family where there was a lot of music. My dad played the guitar and also dabbled on the piano. He’s still at it in his late 70’s, singing in a choir and so on. So, we often sang when I was a child. Often with my sister, too- but it was always at home or with friends.
I got hooked onto metal in my early teens when an older kid played metal on his cassette stereo in his car. The first bands were Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the albums Piece of Mind and British Steel respectively. I think I fell for the power and expressiveness of the genre. But I have always listened to a lot of different styles of music, from classical music to jazz and contemporary pop music.
Before I started writing music I wrote lyrics, loads of (them). It wasn’t until my late teens I picked up the guitar and started composing. I’ve never really played other band’s music but I guess I learned playing metal from a book with Judas Priest songs. After the military service, me and some friends started playing and that became Hollow after a couple of years. My motivation for starting and being part of a band has always been the creative aspect and the other parts like performing is more besides the point.
Dead Rhetoric: You were the vocalist for Hollow, who released two albums on Nuclear Blast during the late 1990’s. What memories do you have of your time with the band, how did you feel being a part of a scene when the label was building their power metal roster because of Hammerfall and Primal Fear, and what do you feel about those albums now in retrospect?
Stoltz: It’s fun to have been a part of all that and being signed to such a major label. We did a daytime show at Wacken and had fans in the audience with our t-shirts and they were singing along in the choruses. Apart from that we didn’t get much support from Nuclear Blast on the second album, Architect of the Mind.
I think both albums are good, each in their own way. My favorite is the latter, partly because it’s a concept album. The first one, Modern Cathedral, was more of a mix of old and new material. AOTM was more of a band effort and I think it has a few really good songs. If I were to do it again I would work more on the production, but we were a bit short on time in the studio back then.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the background vocal work you did on the Nocturnal Rites record Afterlife – how did you get that chance to work with them, and what did you think of the band’s lineup change with Jonny coming in on vocals at that point in their career?
Stoltz: Umeå isn’t a very big city so us metallers know each other. I think they wanted some variation in the backup vocals, so they asked if I was interested. It was mostly a fun thing to do for fellow musicians. Jonny is a great singer and we actually shared the stage here in Umeå when we had the release party for A Battle Won. It’s great that Nocturnal Rites finally have returned after their long hiatus.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you do in your music career in the interim between Hollow and developing Binary Creed, which started in 2013? And can you fill us in on how the band formed and if you knew right away the type of melodic, progressive-oriented power metal you wanted to develop or did you have to reach that point through rehearsing and writing together?
Stoltz: I had a few quiet years. My ears got better — or maybe I just got used to the situation — and I started playing in a band doing covers some ten years after Hollow. But I’ve always been playing the guitar and writing music and I had some blogs and a Myspace page where I put up different demos.
Binary Creed formed when (guitarist) Stefan (Rådlund) sent me a text asking me if I was interested in a project. We knew each other a bit from the Hollow days and had rehearsal rooms next door for a while. I also performed in his band once when their singer got sick. What he sent me sounded interesting. He had keyboard parts, which was a new thing to me. I also liked the variation in lead guitar his different style of soloing would offer.
But writing music has never been directed towards a certain style of music. What comes, comes.
Dead Rhetoric: The debut album Restitution came out in 2014 on Nightmare Records. How did the studio and songwriting sessions go, where there any specific highlights or struggles you had to work through, and how do you feel about the overall outcome and response worldwide?
Stoltz: We had some contacts with Nightmare Records but it was released on our own. The writing goes like this: Stefan and I put snippets of music on a cloud storage service. We download them and try to develop ideas as we go. He writes the music parts of his songs and then I add vocals and sometimes re-arrange the parts to fit the singing. On my songs Stefan added keyboards and most of the lead parts. The studio for Restitution was in our homes but we did the mixing at E.A.P Studios here in Umea.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the member changes that took place a few years back – and what do the new members bring to the table that differs from the old lineup?
Stoltz: The current line-up adds different musical perspectives, which I think is great. I hope that we can make a varied third album together.
Dead Rhetoric: Your latest album is A Battle Won, out now on Rockshots Music. How did you gain this new record deal, and where do you see the differences between the two records – do you believe you have even more of a sharper focus on where you want Binary Creed to be on a musical basis?
Stoltz: Rockshots is a distribution deal. We’ve been into contact with many labels — and they with us — but this was a good solution for getting ABW out. I think we’re evolving into something a bit different for each album. But I can’t really control the direction. It’s more like the music takes us somewhere other than the other way around.
Dead Rhetoric: The record conceptually tackles war, blind obedience, and taking a stand on oppression and violence no matter the cost. Has this been something on your mind for a while now, inspired by current world events – and do you work hand in hand with the music development to make sure everything fits as far as mood and flow?
Stoltz: The first album deals with finding yourself when in an inner turmoil. Some listeners have interpreted Restitution as a confessional album but when I wrote it I intended it to be quite the opposite! We’re not a Christian band and I think religion and those old myths belong in the fairytale section of the library. There are some good stories and a lot of wisdom in mankind’s religious texts. But my firm convictions are that each and every one of them are man-made.
The second album is related to the first, as it too deals with decision-making and fighting conflicting wills. We have a horrible situation in the Middle-East and hopefully there will be peace and order there in a reasonable future. And some motivate this war and its acts of terror by using religious interpretations or quotations. It’s so sad that the few can cast such a horrific shadow on the many, who have a more tolerant and peaceful interpretation.
When I start writing a new album I plan the songs carefully and try to write lyrics and music that match and complement the progression of the story.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it fair to say that many of your influences come from the late 1980’s to early 1990’s movement, where groups like Queensrÿche, Savatage, Morgana Lefay, and Crimson Glory made an impact on the scene? Do you believe this helps the band stick out from the typical power/progressive metal unit?
Stoltz: It’s fair, to say the least. Crimson Glory and Queensrÿche are two of my all-time favorites. Nowadays I listen mostly to heavier metal but the writing harkens back to those days.
Dead Rhetoric: How is Binary Creed in a live setting? What have been some of your favorite shows, and do you have a preference between the studio or the stage when it comes to the band?
Stoltz: We’re ambitious live as well. We have a great video show and I think we do the albums justice. It’s fun to do shows but I’m more into the writing and studio work. The most recent show was the release party which we arranged ourselves. The crowd filled the venue and we had a great time with Fate’s Right Band who supported us!
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences in the metal scene from your start in the 1990’s to the current market place? Is it easier or harder to have Binary Creed stand out, given the multiple platforms of social media/instant technology platforms available for promotion?
Stoltz: The competition has grown. Plus these days, computers and sound cards have given everyone the chance to record at home. Anyone can record their music and release it online, on Spotify for example, but to make it you need to get publicity and that’s where management or a label comes in. We do this in our spare time and the promotion you need to get attention takes a lot of time.
Dead Rhetoric: I understand you are a fan of science-fiction. What is your favorite medium to experience sci-fi on: through reading books, television series, cinema, or video games? Let us know some of your favorites through the years?
Stoltz: Reading would be my choice. More time-consuming but you get more immersed. There are some great, recent sci-fi movies, though. Arrival is one. I’ve read a lot of Iain M. Banks novels and he’s such a master writer. Highly recommended! It’s a great loss that he is no longer with us.
Imagination and literature can be a mirror to the future. It’s fascinating how these visionaries’ stories in a sense form what is to come. I think art, whether it is literature, film or music, is kind of a distillation of life. Five minutes of music can summarize so much of thought and emotion. And I think art really can make a change in understanding ourselves and others.
Dead Rhetoric: What is something that you would change about your 20 or 25-year old self now looking back at your life, that maybe you put too much of an emphasis on that could have been let go if you weren’t so focused on that aspect?
Stoltz: I don’t believe in looking back. Everything in life is about making choices and somehow making the best of where you are right now. Plus of course trying to find the best direction for the future. Someone, I don’t remember the name, made a comment on quality of life and that the most important thing never is career or money or the area where you live or things like that. Instead it’s your relationships and how you take care of them. That stuck with me.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Binary Creed over the next year? Have you started working on song ideas for the follow-up effort – and if so are you comfortable with where you are going in terms of style or will things be ever evolving and changing album to album for the group?
Stoltz: We’re currently writing material for a third album. The working title is Between Eternities and it too will probably be a conceptual album. But no religious aspects this time!