Marc Hudson – Starbound for GlorySunday, 20th August 2023
Photo: Oliver Lloyd
Already established in a premiere metal outfit like Dragonforce, vocalist Marc Hudson felt ready to helm his own solo record journey with his debut album Starbound Stories. Combining a love of anime, video game soundtracks, plus Japanese culture, the musicians and guests that surround Marc produce an inspiring, positive outlook full of influences across the power metal (and beyond) spectrum. We reached out to Marc to catch up on all things related to the solo album, including special guest choices, cover art inspiration, single picks, thoughts on the upcoming Dragonforce North American tour package, the learning curve when first joining the band, what success means to him these days, and more.
Dead Rhetoric: Starbound Stories is your debut solo album. How did the songwriting and recording process go for this set of material – and what did you see as the major differences or challenges working on this versus your work with Dragonforce?
Marc Hudson: I’d say the writing part of this between myself and the keyboard player Shaz D is a major difference. I had written one song that we were working on together, and then he had sent me one of his, and we were exchanging ideas over those two and he sent me a bunch of more material he’d done. All of it was amazing. The process was to decorate what he had already done, adding choirs, lead vocals, and all the harmonies. Decorating things with other instrumentation like guitars, solos, and little drum fills. That was how the writing part went down. And then we teamed up on the lyrics to try to flesh out the themes of the songs.
Compared to Dragonforce, it was different because I had a lot more creative input on this than I would normally have with a Dragonforce album. Because the way Dragonforce tends to do things is they will have already had the whole song written, have in their minds what it’s going to sound like, what instruments they are going to use. This time it was a lot more personal and a bit more hand-crafted, it’s my baby compared to a Dragonforce album.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you have specific musicians/ guests in mind to feature on this record – or did you take things on a case by case, song by song basis to figure out who you wanted to place where?
Hudson: I’ve always had a few musicians in mind that I was waiting to use for something. What I did with this is I went through song by song to try and put a musician in that would match the song really well. Like for example in “Dracula X!” Adrienne Cowan would be the perfect person to do the screaming part of that. I had the musicians earmarked before I got to the stage of asking them. Some of them were musicians I had been a fan of for a long time. Like Syu from Galneryus was one of them. I sent him an email, telling him I was doing a solo album, what did he think about playing on it? He said definitely. Some I just hit them up like that, which was awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any specific songs that were more of a challenge than others?
Hudson: To be honest, not really. The song “Call of the Martyrs” I guess had a bit of a change. I ended up extending the middle section out to facilitate the guitar solos of three people. By and large, most of the songs were already golden before I got to touch them. Any big changes would have been to the detriment of the song, really.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss your love of Japanese culture which includes anime, the music, and video game soundtracks and how that influenced the style, approach and lyrical/musical concepts for this album?
Hudson: The concept for the whole album is a melding of the genre of video game songs, anime, and power metal. I’ve always been a fan of the uplifting and inspiring sound of anime music, and I always thought that with power metal, that would be combined greater than the sum of both parts. Which is the case of taking some of those chord progressions that are used a lot in J-pop, J-rock. Some of their music ideas and packaging it up into a power metal sound, basically.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you want to get across with the cover art for Starbound Stories?
Hudson: The cover art – I’m a big fan of RPG video games from the 1990’s, the Final Fantasy series, Nintendo games, stuff like that. I wanted to it look like a video game that you’ve never played before. I wanted the actual artwork to look a bit anime-style and portray this message of the music being this ray of light coming out from an otherwise broken world. I got an artist from Canada, her name is Shilin; she does a web comic and does a lot of anime and stuff to paint it. I came up with the concept, went through it with her, and the final results I’m really happy with it. I still get excited looking at it now.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it a difficult process to go through which singles to release to premiere this album?
Hudson: Yes, it was in a way. I’m still not happy with the ones they chose. I want all of them to be singles, but at the end of the day you have to pick two or three. I went with “Astralive” first because it’s the most Dragonforce-ish sounding song, and I thought it would be quite important for the first experience for the listener to be something not too alien, considering that I am singing for both projects. We went with that song first, and then “The Siren” which is the second single, is compositionally probably the best song, in my opinion, catchy and inventive. The third one will be “Starbound Stories”, which is a nice middle ground between the two previous ones. Trying to cover all bases and give the listeners a good cross-section of what the album has to offer.
Dead Rhetoric: Had you signed with Napalm separately before announcing that Dragonforce would also be on this label?
Hudson: Yes, I signed with them quite a long time before Dragonforce did. I didn’t think we were going to be on the same label so it’s kind of funny how things happened.
Dead Rhetoric: Dragonforce recently announced an upcoming fall North American tour with Amaranthe, Nanowar of Steel, and Edge of Paradise. What can the fans expect on this run, and how important has it been for the band to pull together strong tour packages to ensure the maximum value for your fan base in this competitive live touring market?
Hudson: What to expect from the run – well we have a new album in the works that is basically finished, I just have a few bits on the vocals to finish as do the other guys musically. We are going to play some new songs I imagine, and we will look back into the Dragonforce back catalog to pick out some songs that people haven’t heard for a long time. It will be a nice, wide variety that should keep the new fans as well as the old fans very happy. Hopefully the nerdy fans as well who have been requesting the same songs over and over for years (laughs).
In terms of putting together the package. Obviously, it’s important to have big bands together to have cross-promotion for both audiences. It’s also good to pick a band that may be sort of similar. I think the lineup we have for this next tour is pretty good. All the fans should be happy with this, as it’s four great bands every night.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the highlights of your musical career – specific albums, videos, tours, festival appearances, or other accomplishments where you knew you were making an impact with your abilities?
Hudson: In terms of recordings, my new album. This is a lot more personal for me than just being the singer on a Dragonforce album. There’s a lot more to this, this is all coming from me. It’s also been the most work I’ve ever done, and it’s a difficult process getting there. Now that it’s here, it’s a highlight. A couple of the big shows for me, Loud Park Festival in Japan, the first time I did that. It’s a crazy environment to go into, first time playing there kind of thing. Playing in the middle of a lineup with so many amazing musicians playing the same day as us.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you have any nervousness stepping up from being a more weekend-oriented musician to joining a band like Dragonforce? Was there a learning curve you had to experience to get your feet underneath you?
Hudson: Yeah, definitely. The learning curve was very steep. It was trial by fire introduction to the whole thing. They dropped me in the deep end. The first public show I did was supporting Iron Maiden, so that was obviously a bit of a butt clencher (laughs). It was a difficult process. I think from the outside looking in, it’s quite hard to comprehend everything that is involved in being a touring musician. There’s loads of things you wouldn’t expect – the sheer amount of time you are spending away from home, you have to be quite comfortable in the uncomfortable, all these creature comforts that you have in your regular life disappear when you are in a tour bus going from city to city every night. The learning curve was tough, I had a rude awakening to the whole thing. These days I am happy with it, it doesn’t bother me anymore. It was definitely difficult to transition like this into the music business.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you hopeful with this solo record to possibly do some live performances down the line, or is the Dragonforce schedule too busy to carve that out?
Hudson: I would love to, but exactly as you said the schedule is looking crazy. It will take some time and a lot of thought to put together a thing like that. At the moment it’s on the backburner until I’m on the other side of what Dragonforce will be delivering this year and next year.
Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people to learn about Marc Hudson the person away from what people know as the musician and the performer?
Hudson: Ah, a good question! I’m trying to think of a good answer. Maybe the biggest one would be that I’m definitely not an extrovert. The idea of getting up on stage and singing in front of people is kind of my worst nightmare. Which is a weird thing. Somehow, I’ve adapted to it. I’m not naturally confident like you might think I am by watching a video.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have to channel a different energy and mindset onstage compared to what people hear of you on record?
Hudson: Yeah, for sure. On stage, you have to be larger than life at every opportunity. You have to present the music in a way… it’s hard to present something on stage that is so meticulously well recorded. You have to move around a lot on stage, be expressive, sing well and make sure you entertain the crowd in between the songs. There are a lot of things to that that took me quite a while to get to grips with. You have to deliver a show night after night, and have your enthusiasm be at 100% every time, which can be quite difficult.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s left on the bucket list of accomplishments/ achievements that you want to be able to check off either musically or personally in the coming years?
Hudson: I think musically I’ve done everything on my list. I would like to play some of these songs from the album live. That’s to be seen. Apart from that, the bucket list now is very non-musical. I’m sure the next thing that I do will be kind of crazy.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of the metal music industry currently? What changes (if any) would you like to make for the greater good and overall health of the movement?
Hudson: I have to be honest, I’m not a huge fan musically of a lot of the new music that’s been coming out lately. But that’s just me, and that’s probably just a personal thing. I think the main thing that could really do with changing is the way that artists are paid on the scene. With streaming platforms, it’s not like how it was in the 80’s when people would go out and buy an LP. In general, the artist doesn’t get enough for what they are doing, that’s why you see all these artists doing all these extracurricular things, going on Cameo, doing Twitch streaming, to generate extra revenue. When all the work that is put into the music should pay the people for their time. That hasn’t been working for over twenty years, so this is old news really. I wish that would go in a different direction.
Dead Rhetoric: Has your definition of success changed now that you are nearing your forties compared to how you viewed success in your twenties or thirties?
Hudson: (laughs). Yes, definitely. My vision of success has probably done a complete 180. Success is such a hard thing to quantify. I think for one person it means something, and for someone else it means another. You could consider the fact that the band that I’m in is a successful band, and I’m somewhat well known from them, that’s a success. Again, you could say the guy who’s working a 9 to 5 and has a family and kids, he’s a success. I’m not really sure, it’s a tough one.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of hobbies or interests do you have away from music that you like to pursue when you have the free time and energy to do so?
Hudson: I play a lot of video games. That’s something that I don’t really have enough time to play them anymore. That’s one of my favorite hobbies. Another is exercising and trying to keep fit. Once my album is out, I will focus my energy doing that, keeping an eye on this body.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for the next year of Dragonforce and yourself?
Hudson: There’s lots of material that we didn’t use for this album that could appear on the next solo album. We wrote 15 songs, and only 10 of them made it. The first thing I need is to get genuine feedback from the fans. There are plenty of ideas. We will ride out the Dragonforce wave with the album and touring next and worry about that afterwards.