Screaming For Silence is the debut album from the extremely talented guitarist Lasse Dale and is notable not only for the excellent power tinged progressive metal, but also for featuring the considerable vocal talents of TNT, Shy, Siam, China Blue and solo artist Tony Mills. Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Steven Reid recently caught up with both musicians and brings this complete interview.
SoT: Thank you Lasse and Tony for taking the time to answer a few questions about Screaming For Silence, can you start by letting us know how you came to meet, as it's unusual to see such an established and in demand artist as Tony contributing to an album by an as yet unknown musician.
LASSE: I met Tony at a barbeque at Winterstrain drummer Rolf E. Nyland's place after the Polar Rock festival. Think it was Sunday morning actually when all the other guys had gone home or to sleep! So we spoke under the influence of a few beers and I just asked him if he was interested and what a pro like him would sing over my songs. We decided that we should go down to my place near where Rolf was living and listen to some ideas I had. He liked it all very much and the rest is history as they say.
SoT: Tony, what was it about Lasse and his music that made you want to commit to this album?
TONY: Well, when I first heard it, it took my breath away. It felt like someone had welded Dream Theater to Queensryche but with really radical guitar performances. I think I've said before, that I have to wind sections back to be sure I heard what I thought I'd heard, because some of it is unbelievable. It says much to me, that after all these months, I still listened to the album 3 times during my flights this weekend.
SoT: Lasse, can you please tell us what your musical journey has been, when did you start playing and who are your influences?
LASSE: Well, I have been hugely interested in music as long as I can remember. I started out as a kid actually playing on an old organ, pretty ugly stuff. But my brother Kai had some guitars and sometimes when I had been good I got to try them (laughs) and then I was hooked. Guitars rule!! However I didn't start playing seriously until I was 12 or 13 years old I think.
Influences, I was heavily into Malmsteen, Annihilator, Crimson Glory, Fates Warning and so on, pretty much bands that had insane guitars and a vocalist that screamed his head off. That was pretty much the criteria at that time. My older friends use to record tapes for me and as I said as long there was fast playing and a lot screaming, I'm good(laughs).
SoT: Tony, it's obvious Dale is a very talented guitarist. How do you rate him compared to some of the guys you have had the pleasure of writing with in the past?
TONY: Comparisons are difficult. He is very different to anyone I've played with before; he's not frightened to venture into new frontiers with his playing and he's certainly not guilty of playing the same old 3 chord wonders that we hear too much of. I think he's capable of playing anything that he put his mind to and just for the pure cheek of it, he could play it 3 times exactly the same as well. I think I've complimented him enough over the last three years and if I do it anymore, it will get embarrassing.
SoT: Did you guys get the time to get together in the studio during recording or was it a case of sending files back and forth to each other?
LASSE: No, I just had some contact with the bass player Tommy, as we live in the same city. He helped me in a huge way with preprod seeing as I'm a bit of a retard when it comes to computers (laughs),. Other than that we have been an "email band".
TONY: Oh, this was a real file sharing exercise. Dale lives at least a thousand miles from where I am in the UK and I doubt it would have been practical to be in the same studios for such a long time. My work on this record took eighteen months.
SoT: Were the rest of the musicians, Tommy Granli (Bass),Karl Birkely (Keyboards) and Kristoffer Oyen (Drums)in place before Tony came on board and how do you know them?
LASSE: Actually Tommy and me have always been recording some kind of old trash songs that he had, plus I had some songs we had started on. But it was difficult to do too much with them because lack of people who had time and the will to do it. So it started out as me and Tommy who I have known from way back, we even played together in a covers band for 2 or 3years. I have known Karl from way back as well, since he originally comes from the same place where me and Tommy live. I called Karl because we have talked about doing something together. So we started making some songs but didn't get anyone to sing properly on the tunes, so was pretty much "up in the air", but then I met up with Tony and then we had a goal. "Now it's gonna be a record and that's that!" Kristoffer was actually the last guy to join the project, I had programmed all the drums and got somewhat carried away. It became pretty "sick", and couldn't find a drummer who could cope with the beats. However someone tipped me about Kristoffer, so I asked him and he came onboard. He did an insanely good job and it made all the difference to get real drums on it. Tony I had just heard of because I really liked those Siam albums and loved his voice, so that was pretty cool to get to make an album with him and get him to sing some Metal again!! (laughs)
One of the main strengths of the album is that the songs on it are quite varied in style and there is everything from technically intricate metal to stripped back songs with excellent atmosphere. How long did the album take to write and was it always your vision to mix the feel of the album?
LASSE: I have always recorded ideas and such all my life really, but this album came together in two years because we all had little time. Now it seems to be three years, but that's just because of delays in the mixing stage and pressing the actual albums. That it sounds like it does is pretty much that I listen to many different styles of Metal and use my influences from that. So then you have a good mix already, the trick is to get it to sound like a song in the end and I think that worked out pretty well. I always wants to make good songs, not just insane playing all the time, you've got to have some meaning to it I think. I love fast and difficult insane metal to listen to; however I don't make that kind of music very well and don't really want to either. Something I DO love is to mix like heavy, heavy shit and then have nice melodies at the same time and with Tony and Karl you get some great melodies on this album. Difficult question this.
Lyrically the songs cover some surprisingly deep and thoughtful subjects. Did you set out to write in this way, or was it a case of being inspired by the music. Did the two of you discuss what the lyrics would be, or were they all down to Tony?
LASSE: No that is all Mr. Tony Mills. I can't write lyrics, I can write a little in English, as you probably can read now, maybe not! I think that the guy who is singing the lyrics should write them too, because it sounds better when the vocalist really means the words he singing. There's a tendency to get boring and lifeless when people sings lyrics that other guys have written, so Tony did all that, I just said he couldn't write about love all the time. So then it was settled (laughs).
TONY: We shared an approval process during the lyric writing. I put out ideas and Lasse said he liked them or not, as the case may be; I think we actually scrapped one complete song. But there is a lot of emotion in all the subject matter, thanks to my alter ego. He's responsible for a lot of that. I obviously have issues with religion, politics and death. God appears a lot, but I am not a religious man. It is fair to say that the music was a powerful influence on writing the lyrics, but some of the lyrics like the Machiavellian Perspective were written before I heard the track.
SoT: The spoken word intro to "Machiavellian Perspective" is an effective and thought provoking way to start a song, how did that come about?
LASSE: I think should Tony answer that one. Brilliant lyric though.
TONY: I was studying Machiavelle and looking at his attitudes and inspirations when Dale sent that particular track. I tried narrating the speech at the beginning, but I sounded like a poor rendition of George Bush, so we hired a nice well spoken Englishman.
SoT: Tony, your vocals on "The End Of All Days" are nothing short of stunning, to me it ranks as one of the best you've done during your career, I mentioned in my review of the album that it feels like you throw every last piece of emotion you have into the song. How hard was it for you to write and then sing this song and do you believe it to be some of your best work?
TONY: This was a really simple concept of your dearest loved one dying with their head in your hands. The more I thought about this, the more I grieved. So I took it to its furthest possible extreme until I really let it get to me and it wasn't possible to put any more emotion into it. It was gut wrenching to sing and the music was really pulling me down during the recording because I found it so sad. I asked Dale not to write another track like that, because it affected me too much and I found it impossible to write after recording that song for many days.
SoT: I know that Tony is always busy, between TNT, China Blue, Shy, his solo career and other various projects. Have you two spoken about the possibility of playing some shows? If so would you concentrate on Norway or try to hit different markets and maybe pick up a few support slots?
LASSE: Well I don't know at this stage, but my goal always has been to play live. Thats the life and the reward I am looking for, so that would been brilliant. We'll see how the album sells and stuff and how and if we could get together and play some shows. I wouldn't really like to play these songs with other people, I kind of think it needs Tony and the other guys. As you say Tony is a busy guy. We'll see what happens.
TONY: To sing this album live would kill me. But stranger things have happened!
SoT: Tony, you are involved in such a wide variety of bands and projects along with your solo albums, is your schedule still as busy as ever and what is next for you?
TONY: Apart from summer festivals with TNT in Norway, I am half way through writing an album with Robby Bobel from Frontline in Munich. I've also just completed writing and recording an album for a young AOR band from Wales called Serpentine. I pretty much travel to Norway every week, so the recording schedule is usually back in the UK during the week. I haven't really stopped writing/recording since the end of last year and at the moment I don't see any let up as I also have the responsibility of writing and completing the new SHY album. But hey, I don't complain and neither does the other guy inside.
SoT: Screaming For Silence has only just been released, what are your long term plans? Have your thoughts turned to album number two yet?
LASSE: I pretty much take one day at a time, so we will see. I really hope we could make more albums and me and Karl have already started making ideas. So if I have the money there will be more metal music from me yes.
SoT: Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions guys and I hope that Screaming For Silence is the success it deserves to be.
(Click here to read our review of Screaming For Silence)