Gloryful – Championing the BladeTuesday, 3rd June 2014
Germany has long been seen as one of the strongholds in terms of true/ traditional metal support. Bands and fans alike never wavered for their love of the genre, even when alternative, grunge, and nu-metal took over the mainstream airwaves of North America during most of the 1990’s. I really think that friends and relatives pass down the history through their record collections and recollection of concert memories (I know I do when it comes to my first metal concert: January 15th, 1985 Iron Maiden/ Twisted Sister on the Powerslave tour at the former Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA) so that newer generations can gain insight and inspiration to forge their own creative fires.
Gloryful is another quintet that hope to bring entertainment and traditional metal to the current marketplace. Starting in 2010 with Night In Gales guitarist Jens ‘Shredmaster JB’ Basten and vocalist Johnny La Bamba, the band’s initial 3 song demo Sedna’s Revenge gained acclaim not only from the press and independent metal labels, but also notable musicians such as Dan Swano and Charles Greywolf, working with the band in production, mixing, and mastering situations. Completing the band in 2012 would be guitarist Vito Papotto, bassist Oliver Karasch, and drummer Hartmut Stoof and a year later their debut album The Warrior’s Code would come out on Massacre Records.
On the heels of their second full length album Ocean Blade, I knew I wanted to learn more about this group unafraid to champion the work of Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Running Wild all within the span of 10 songs. So firing off some questions to Jens seemed like the next logical step in learning more about this relatively new act… and also inquire a little bit more into a long-time favorite in terms of future Night In Gales plans. Do not let this fire and brimstone style die with the veterans… Gloryful intend on standing strong, and deserve your admiration and support.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us how a guitarist more well known for his melodic death metal exploits in Deadsoil and Night In Gales becomes a member of a true, traditional heavy metal act like Gloryful? And does this harken back to your youthful days first discovering the style of music and what you probably cut your teeth on as far as guitar technique/ development?
Jens Basten: My older brother Frank (also playing guitar in Night In Gales) bought all the classic vinyl like Number of the Beast, Holy Diver and Battle Hymns in the mid 80s, so I was in the perfect age around eight when I became a metalhead, ha-ha. And when we later played nearly every sort of metal , it was always Frank who told me that only heavy metal was the real deal, and that the day will come when we will met the right singer to go for it! And that day came in 2010, and what can I say – it feels damn right.
Dead Rhetoric: Your second studio album Ocean Blade comes out less than a year after the release of your debut album The Warriors Code. How are you able to become productive and prompt with your output when other metal bands take two-to-three years between releases?
Basten: The songwriting process for Ocean Blade started directly after The Warrior’s Code was recorded. And as The Warrior’s Code was more than 5 months ready to release before it finally was released, there was some time to compose some new stuff. And as we are in our mid 30s, we feel as if we have to hurry a bit more now if we want to reach some bigger stages soon, ha-ha.
Dead Rhetoric: My favorite songs include the Running Wild-like “The Masters Hands“ as well as the melodic runs and gallops that make “Siren Song“ very memorable. What are some of your memories surrounding these songs, and were there any special transformative moments for other songs that happened through the course of initial idea development to finalization that surprised the band?
Basten: “The Master´s Hands” was a song that we composed in a very short time, I think in about three hours. When Johnny came around with his vocal-ideas I was impressed of the energy and power this song spreads. As always, Johnny changed the chords in the chorus-part to realize the perfect sing-a-long hook line that you find here now. It’s “We are, we are, we are, we are…” reminded me directly on Warlock’s “All We Are.” I am very happy about how strong this title turned out and that most of the journalists quote that one as one of the best tracks on the album. Johnny sent me the main riff of “Siren Song” as a one-minute iPhone recording, played on a small acoustic guitar, but that was enough to understand what this song should sound like in the end – a classic pirate Rock ‘n Rolf theme. I never thought that we will do a song like this, but sometimes you cannot resist once you hear the riff, haha.
Dead Rhetoric: A lot of strong releases from German traditional/power metal outfits also hit the streets around the same time as Ocean Blade, from Brainstorm and Edguy to Gamma Ray and Sinbreed. Where do you stand on the quality versus quantity of releases that consumers face in today’s scene- as they obviously cannot afford to buy everything unless they are independently wealthy?
Basten: I don’t think about that unless we one day sell only 126 copies of a new album. But I never had started this band without knowing that Johnny is a very outstanding singer. His voice is special and you will recognize him from a hundred other good metal singers in a second. The world doesn’t needs another band that sounds like Edguy or Helloween. There are lot of guys that try to reach (Michael) Kiske. That´s the same mistake if you try to sound exactly like Manowar.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with Belgian artist Kris Verwimp again on the coverart. What do you like most about his style, and how important do you view artwork and imagery these days in terms of delivering a first impression for Gloryful?
Basten: It was clear to me that if we do a real heavy metal band, that there should be a painted artwork and no photoshop-collage. I am so fed up with this so called “art.” We didn´t ask Kris because we are so big viking- or comic fanatics for The Warrior’s Code, it was just try and he was in for the silly idea we offered – a naked girl riding a polar bear, fighting a black sea-monster in an arctic landscape. As the artwork turned out very cool and the reactions on that one was almost great, it was clear to stay with Kris for the follow up. And of course we asked him already to go for the artwork for our third album. Johnny recently told me about his basic ideas on the story and the cover concept and I can say that the next one will be surprisingly cheesy again, ha-ha. The way a heavy metal artwork should look like.
Dead Rhetoric: Being involved in the heavy metal mecca that is Germany, what are the aspects that you think have kept the scene vital and alive, despite all the twists, new subgenres, economic ups and downs, or trends that come and go?
Basten: The main thing for sure is the industry that is pushing the whole thing more and more to squeeze more money out of it. The second important aspect is that Germany is a rich country where it is no problem to start a band, everyone can do that, no matter if your parents got money or not. Of course Germany has a long important heavy metal history, for example the whole speed and thrash metal acts of the late 80ies. Maybe that´s what keeps the scene alive, I think it´s rather the industry and the money.
Dead Rhetoric: If you could pull together your ultimate all day festival lineup, who would you include past or present beyond Thin Lizzy circa 1976 and Iron Maiden circa 1983 (as I’ve read in a previous Gloryful interview)?
Basten: Rainbow Long Live Rock n´ Roll – Tour, Guns n´ Roses 1987, Metallica 1983, Megadeth 1987, Ramones.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you stand on the technique versus feel question in guitar playing? Does one outweigh the other in certain genres?
Basten: I am way more on the feel-side than on the technique. I was always a lazy one when it comes to exercising, I remember I stopped my hard exercising times with the age of 17 I think, haha. Speed and scales alone are not impressive to me. You don´t have to be the fastest, but the one with the biggest balls.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it surprising when vocalist Björn Gooßes left Night In Gales in 2012 to concentrate on The Very End? Especially considering how strong of an album you put out in 2011 with Five Scars?
Basten: It was a little surprising indeed as he told us that he will leave and that the Romanian dates we played would be his last ones. He told us sometime before that he wasn’t that happy with the Night In Gales situation anymore. You know we didn’t rehearse for months and even years sometimes and maybe we never had a real professional approach in his eyes. He made this decision long before Five Scars came out, you can read that from the lyrics on that album easily.
Dead Rhetoric: What does the future hold for Night In Gales? Is this act now on the back burner considering your activities with Gloryful?
Basten: We did some new tracks and we were searching for a new singer, but the one that first wanted to join quit his plans after a year. We are in talks now with our first singer Christian Müller to do the next record. But that record will take some time, as we didn’t start writing songs and because Gloryful needs my full attention now. But I can promise that it will be a pure old-school melodic death metal album in the vein of our very first releases Sylphlike and the Razor single.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance the promotional/ social media aspect of the band with getting the workload that needs to be done as far as songwriting, performances, business/ merchandising? Do you believe that it is much harder to make an impact due to the instant technology at peoples fingertips and so many ways to entertain people on a 24/7 basis?
Basten: I take care of the social media promotion, homepage updates and the merchandise mail order thing. I often look back to the times when we wrote letters and traded releases with zines and did tape-compilations and wrote ‘send back my stamp’ on every letter and printed and cut a million flyers to spread in the whole world. That was a much more real and better feeling than to set up Facebook and Twitter posts. But you can’t turn back time and it´s just shitty as it is.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us the best piece of advice you´ve ever received either regarding music or life? And do fellow musicians ever strike up conservations asking you for advice? If so, what do you try to convey to these people?
Basten: Wow that’s a good question. I am sure that the best advice for life I have received from my family, so my brother, my parents and grandfather. My grandfather told me about what to do best when I got a new job once. He said ‘Jens, never start working directly! Before you start to work, analyze how all the other guys do it, then start working.’ My brother taught me a lot about the different subcultural scenes and the conflicts between them in the 80s. I sometimes get asked by other musicians for some advice and if I had some beers I am sure I have a lot to tell, ha-ha. I always try to tell some real stories and facts I experienced that I think are important.
Dead Rhetoric: A lot of times in a bands career the third album tends to be a major statement recording. Have you already started compiling ideas for the next efforts and are you happy with the direction of Gloryful at this point, or do you see possible new influences or nuances entering the sound?
Basten: We have had some talks about the next album, yes. Johnny told me about his first ideas about the title, cover artwork, story and the whole concept around it. Musically we will stay as you know us now. We will not try to integrate many new styles or turn into another modern shit-metal band. Our aim is to become better in what we do already. The main thing for us is to compose the best possible typical Gloryful heavy metal songs.
Dead Rhetoric: What does the rest of 2014 look like for Gloryful?
Basten: We just recorded two Dio covers. One will appear on a Ronnie James Dio tribute compilation album, the other one will be released later. Next release is the vinyl version of Ocean Blade on Metalizer Records. This nice vinyl edition will be limited in two different colors, 150 copies each color. We will play a lot of cool shows and festivals in the summer and maybe we will do a video clip. Besides all these activities, we will start writing new songs for album no. 3. That´s the plan.