NorthTale – An Eternal WarningThursday, 18th November 2021
Establishing himself as a journeyman guitarist sharing the stage with bands like Cellador, Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Circle II Circle, and U.D.O. among others, guitarist Bill Hudson felt it was time to create his own band. And that is NorthTale – an international power metal group with members from Sweden, Brazil and the United States. Eternal Flame as the second full-length contains a sound that should be familiar to those who love 1990’s/early 2000’s power metal – along with stellar chops/ musicianship-filled passages that are very virtuoso/neoclassical leaning and a stellar new vocalist in Guilherme Hirose who rivals the greats like Michael Kiske and the late, great Andre Matos.
We reached out to Bill late one morning on Skype and he happily let us in on his journey from Brazil to America and the seasoning he gained on tour before starting NorthTale – as well as the work behind the album, favorite touring memories including headlining Wacken with Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra, professionalism on stage, working with Nuclear Blast, and how Angra and Sepultura have helped give his creativity and abilities hope to make an impact globally.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention at the start of the background bio sheet for this new record that NorthTale is the band you wanted to start at 16 but never was able to. I’m curious if you could elaborate on what factors played into waiting until 2017 to develop this group – was it timing, assembling the right musicians, gaining experience, or other outside circumstances?
Bill Hudson: Kind of all of the above. To be honest, I grew up in Brazil. Despite having a lot of excellent musicians, there are zero opportunities for musicians there. You can make a name and break into the market coming from overseas in Brazil, but Brazilian people don’t give you a chance. It’s difficult to explain to Americans and Europeans because it’s a different mentality. Knowing that at sixteen that is where I was. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or develop. Although there are two bands that you might have heard of from Brazil, there’s not really a scene so to speak. I was 21 when I moved to America to then start my career. As far as starting a career, that is pretty late. I was playing guitar since I was 10, I didn’t even understand the concept of going on tour until I came to America.
I figured bands lived all year on tour, making money, I had no idea how it actually worked until I was here. At the beginning of my career, I joined this band called Cellador. We were on Metal Blade, I did a bunch of awesome touring as our first tour was with Bullet for My Valentine, we toured with Trivium, All That Remains. We went to Japan and played with Heaven and Hell at the Loud Park fest. I had to go through these experiences that it takes to have a band. Living in Brazil, I saw everything with rose colored glasses. I had no experience, and I don’t think I could write this music. I really loved this music, it’s my favorite kind of metal, and there were no musicians out there. I came to America, I got experience, and all of my experiences from Cellador into Circle II Circle, the Savatage people, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, into U.D.O., these were bands that helped me see how the inner workings of the industry (goes). I met all the contacts, all the PR people, what does a label do, what kind of people at the label should you even be in touch with, what kind of equipment to go on tour with. I didn’t know anything about that.
After all this, fast forward to 2017. I was very, at least to what I was looking to do, very accomplished. I had checked all the boxes that I dream of as a kid. I wanted to live in America, I wanted to play Wacken Open Air- I headlined Wacken, I wanted to go to Japan – I went to Japan twice. I wanted to make a living playing professional heavy metal and not to have a side job and just tell people I make a living at music. I genuinely have this life I have now. In 2017 I realized there was still something missing. I did it all, but it’s sort of normalized. Some band would call me next month and I would go on tour. Am I really the person I wanted to be at 16?
I realized I wasn’t. Fifteen years worth of touring, super luxury tour buses making this money, but I was playing somebody else’s music. They were seeing me at the show, but not someone else. When you go to a U.D.O. show, you see Bill Hudson because you cannot see Wolf Hoffmann. You go to a Circle II Circle or a TSO, people are seeing me because people couldn’t see Joel Hoekstra. I was a fill in for Joel. You go to a Circle II Circle show to see me, not Chris Caffery. I realized I was the fill-in – and you can do a lot with that, but nobody actually cared what I sounded like. People may know my name and face, but they don’t know what I truly sound like on guitar. They assumed I can play because I am doing these gigs, but what do I sound like, a Bill Hudson solo? Very few people know right now.
That’s what NorthTale is about. It started as a solo album. I wanted to do something like Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. I should get a singer to do two vocal songs – it just ended up that those two vocal songs were the best songs I had. Maybe it’s time to do my band. I had the singer, the band, maybe now is the time to start what I didn’t do at sixteen. At 34 I started the band I wanted to do back then.
Dead Rhetoric: Eternal Flame is the second NorthTale album and follow-up to Welcome to Paradise from 2019. Outside of gaining a new vocalist in Guilherme Hirose, what do you see as the major differences in terms of the songwriting, playing, production, and overall final product?
Hudson: That’s night and day. As far as I’m concerned, this is our debut album. I’m not even joking. The first album came out as a record, a lot of people like it, I’m proud of it. Over half of the album is demos. We wrote a demo EP, got signed, and those songs went on the album. We wrote six more songs to complete the album. This album is a much more mature situation. I spent much more time with the band. We did festivals in Sweden and Japan. For the first album, we only knew each other online. We had never been in the same room. This time we had, although this album was done apart, we had much more time and experience together.
As far as the songwriting goes, the singer change was instrumental because I wrote whatever I wanted this time. Without any fear, this is in my opinion the perfect album. There’s not one thing I would want to change. I never thought I would reach that point with a piece of work. I listen to it, and there is nothing I would change to my ears. A big part of that was writing half of the album without a singer, writing my vocal melodies the way I wanted, and writing the second half with such a talented singer as Guilherme. He was a big change to everything. I can do whatever I want, and luckily he wants, with his voice. Other things like better atmosphere in the band. And the fact that we had a real producer in the band this time with Dennis Ward, he is in my opinion the top power metal producer in the world. Having him on this record was an honor and made all the difference.
Dead Rhetoric: You were using a ground-breaking software called Audio Movers with producer Dennis Ward for this record. How did this program help capture the feel and atmosphere of this record in a different way than normal – as you had to record this record separately due to the pandemic and your geographical differences?
Hudson: The first album was done the same way – we were all in different places in the world. At the time we had more Swedish guys in the band than we do. Now we have a Brazilian, which adds a third place. Audio Movers came in when I contacted Dennis. I wanted to fly him into America, and he could fly to Germany and then fly him in, no problem. Because of the pandemic, he decided not to. Then he talked about Audio Movers, which was completely new to me. He said we could do it online, I figured we would record our parts, send it over, and he would give us his feedback. I never realized he was going to be able to do this in real time.
One day he calls me and says we should get together and go over the songs. I’m thinking we are doing a FaceTime call, and he said no, we will connect on Audio Movers, he would hear the demos in real time. On bar 157, cut that, that was new to me. At the end of the day, it felt like he was really there, because we would hear him through our headphones in real time, and he’s hearing what we are playing in real time. Giving feedback in real time, with the added comfort of sitting in my room instead of in a super expensive studio. Although we did pay for the expensive studio for the drums and for the vocals, everything else was done in our homes which was awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the choice to go into the 90’s Iron Maiden catalog for the “Judas Be My Guide” cover, including the special guest appearance with Kai Hansen?
Hudson: Kai is on one of our original songs “Future Calls”. The special guest on “Judas Be My Guide” is Jonas Heidgert, the singer for the Swedish band Dragonland. I wanted to have that cover on the first album. Our previous singer wasn’t down with that, so we decided to do it for this album. Our drummer Patrick Johansson is good friends with Nicko McBrain. Besides, it is one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs. I don’t know if it’s the top one, because I like a lot of the 80’s material, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is one of my favorites. It’s my favorite 90’s Maiden song for sure, and I always thought it was weird how they never played it live, not even once. It’s far superior to the rest of the record. I wanted to do some cover, and I figure that all the power metal covers I could think of, everybody has done – “Eagle Fly Free”, “Father Time”. I haven’t heard many people do “Judas Be My Guide”, and Jonas was invited as a guest as he has an Iron Maiden tribute band in Gothenburg, and I think he does an awesome Bruce Dickinson.
Dead Rhetoric: “Nature’s Revenge” as the epic song on the record, is that more of a challenge for you to develop the right atmosphere and keeping the interest of your listeners through an eleven-and-a-half-minute track?
Hudson: Oh yes. “Nature’s Revenge” is the first long song I’ve ever written. I have always had the vision for one. Long songs can get really boring really fast. Especially if there is a lot of orchestration, they can be hard to listen to. I never had anything to talk about, so that’s why I never wrote a long song. This is about the pandemic. When the pandemic started, everyone started writing about it – but they were songs all about being on lockdown, masks, heavier subjects. I didn’t want to do the same thing. Until I saw one day this video of dolphins coming up to people in Venice, Italy. Nature was healing, that was the point of the video. That was inspiring to me. This is something that is beautiful. We are the problem. That’s what “Nature’s Revenge” is, and I wanted to represent that in a very theatrical, dramatic way. The first part of the song, if you really want to stop it’s a regular power metal song, that presents the case. The second part is much heavier. I was inspired by movies like Armageddon, The End of Days, apocalyptic movies where everything is blowing up. I wanted to write a part that sounded like that. And then, during this part we have a guest singer Mary Zimmer who is from the US band Helion Prime. Mary plays Mother Earth, during this part she comes and tells everyone they are fucked, you’ve made those choices and I am done. That sends us into the third part, the quarantine. Just like the quarantine was a bunch of things that changed a little bit. You still are stuck at home doing the same thing essentially every day, that part is instrumentally repetitive. You hear a solo, new strings, but the same part over and over. And part four is another chance- which is where we are now. Are we going to change? That’s why the song is so long and develops like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Performing in the power metal genre, there are obviously certain aspects NorthTale takes into account with the melodies, harmonies, hooks, and sophisticated syncopation that separate yourselves from the norm. What constitutes an ideal NorthTale song – are there certain trademarks that have to be there for the lyrical/musical content, and are you super critical to meet those standards?
Hudson: Yes, absolutely. A NorthTale song will have a happy sounding chorus – anthemic. A good, melodic chorus. It has to stick to your mind. That’s the first thing I write for any song. A lot of shredding – keyboards, guitars, top level musicianship to a certain style. I’m talking about classically-infused kind of stuff. Not djent or anything like that. A lot of melody. These elements – I wanted to expand way, way further away from Welcome to Paradise. I wanted it to still be recognizable though as the same band. This is also what connects both albums. Eternal Flame is way darker, way heavier, way more diverse. Some of the songs could still be on Welcome to Paradise. Another specific thing – the power metal beat. I always talk about the power metal drum beat – you can put that on any song, and you will sound better. Sixteenth notes on the kick and the snare drum, upbeat. 80% of the time, that will be in our songs too.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Nuclear Blast roster – do you believe they have the proper staff and understanding of what the band wants to achieve as far as developing a sustained, global following?
Hudson: Exactly. I have no idea how to do this stuff. Some of my favorite records of all-time, were put out by Nuclear Blast. They made this band happen, so I hope people will trust the label to buy into my band because of what they did for this other band. It’s pretty awesome to be on the same label as Helloween, or Sabaton. And have the same people help us, work for the same goal. I couldn’t be more grateful and I hope this partnership lasts for many, many years.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been playing with a number of artists all across the metal/hard rock landscape in your career. What are some of the biggest takeaways that you’ve learned as far as handling yourself professionally and personally that you are able to apply now with NorthTale?
Hudson: There has been a lot. When we did our first show, we got a lot of complements from the press and the people there about how good we looked on stage. There are a few things I told my guys before the show that we should and shouldn’t do, things I see beginning bands do. Certain things, like don’t step in front of the singer, or be in front of the singer if the singer is singing. If I run to your side of the stage, you run to mine. These are things that become common sense over the years, but it takes time to develop in a new band. You watch a new band, if people are too loud, stepping in front of one another, you know those guys don’t have a lot of experience.
Because I’ve always been a position to play and shut the fuck up, I’m always told what to do. You stand here, you dress like this, you play like this. Some artists are cooler. You can play your own solo, but only this many bars. I’m always put in a box, and over the years I understood why. Learning to do a job and make someone else look good as opposed to drawing the attention to me. Because that is mistake number one. The same in dealing with business people. There are certain things you don’t say to your manager, there are certain things you don’t say to your label. A whole slew of things that I couldn’t have learned any other way.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of your personal highlights in terms of your musical career – specific albums, shows, tours, or other moments when you knew you were making a special impact with your craft?
Hudson: Great question. Number one, and I don’t think this will ever change, was the 2015 headlining show at Wacken Open Air. I played as part of Savatage with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, on the other stage. Both bands are playing the same songs in front of 90,000 metal fans in Germany. It was pretty unforgettable. On stage we had Russell Allen from Symphony X, Jeff Scott Soto, Nathan James from Inglorious, all the guys from Savatage. This was one of the biggest nights in heavy metal. To be part of that, was ridiculous. Another very unforgettable experience was touring Russia with U.D.O. I saw places I have never been, or ever will be back to. Some of the places I’ve seen, the Eastern European places. Another highlight was playing with Circle II Circle in Brazil in my hometown of Sao Paulo as a professional. Having my family in the crowd, that was really awesome. That was unbelievable.
Welcome to Paradise is the one record I am most proud of. There is another record I am proud of, it’s not exactly mine. It was this project called Westfield Massacre I did in 2014 with Tommy Vext who was the former front man for Bad Wolves. It was Divine Heresy, the Dino Cazares project without Dino. The music I wrote for that even though it’s completely different from NorthTale, is something I am proud of.
Dead Rhetoric: Growing up in Brazil, can you tell us the importance of acts like Sepultura and Angra when it came to establishing what could be possible with your work as a musician, considering their global impact in the metal scene?
Hudson: See how funny this is. On the first question I started telling you how nobody comes out of Brazil and maybe you have heard of two bands – you just mentioned those two bands (laughs). The impact of those bands was huge. Sepultura – it’s hard to overstate to someone who isn’t from Brazil how big Sepultura is. They are celebrities, on talk shows, on tv, all the time. They are not a typical heavy metal band. Angra is more of a metal band, but the metal band. They will play a show in Brazil and get 5,000 people there from anywhere in the country at one time. Not so much outside. Angra was my favorite band as a kid. Partly because their guitarist Kiko Loureiro was my first guitar teacher. I grew up idolizing that band, but I only like the first phase with Andre Matos. After that they kind of lost me, even though I am closer with the band now. The beginning of Angra is very much an influence to what NorthTale does.
Sepultura I wasn’t really a fan as a kid. I learned to respect Sepultura after I left Brazil. It’s very sad, because they are fantastic. There is a lot of Sepultura influence on the new record as well. Every single metal musician that comes out of Brazil is inspired by those two bands, in one way or another.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns or fears do you have most about the world that we live in today – and what areas do you think people need to spend more time, energy, and effort in to make this a better place?
Hudson: Wow, great question man. I think people should… this is very hard to word because I don’t want my words to be taken out of context by anyone reading this. I think people should care about one another a little bit more. I don’t want to politicize anything. The main issue we have in the world right now is selfishness. It all boils down to that, in a million ways. I’m a very selfish person myself, that is one of my problems. If everyone was a little less selfish, everybody would benefit. That’s what I admire about the Scandinavian countries, and I spend so much time there. Everybody understands that if everyone produces, everyone can benefit from it. Better doctors, better schools, better everything. If everyone has access to it. But I don’t think that everybody should rely on others. Nobody should sit down and say, well it’s going to be provided for me, so I don’t do anything. There is a happy medium that we are not achieving, that’s what I think the world needs now. When it comes to everything, from business to arts to the music we hear on the radio. The music we hear on the radio is all because of selfishness and greed, to make money. There are wars because people are selfish.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for NorthTale and other possible recording/touring endeavors for yourself over the next twelve months?
Hudson: I am leaving next week to do a tour in the UK and Germany with Doro Pesch. We are playing with Michael Schenker in the UK and headlining in Germany. For NorthTale, our first tour that was supposed to happen next month is cancelled. Right now we are looking at another possibility that I hope comes through, and the festivals of course in the summer. That’s my focus right now. We need to go out and play. As far as people are concerned, we might as well be a recording project. I want to get out and play.