Netherland's Sun Caged garnered a lot of critical acclaim when they released their debut in 2003. It was received as a small masterpiece among prog metal circles, but when all members except guitarist Marcel Coenen left the band, the future of Sun Caged was in limbo. The search for a new lineup took quite a while, but they finally released their sophomore album Artemisia earlier this year. Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Murat Batmaz discussed the reason for the break-up and the formation of the new lineup as well as other plans with band leader Marcel Coenen.
Read on for the full interview!
SoT: You released your solo album, an instrumental album, and guested on several Lion Music artists, but kept putting the release date for the new Sun Caged off. What took you so long to release the new album?
Marcel: The reason for the long delay was that several members left the band and the band had to be rebuilt. We are now already writing for the next album and that one won't take that long, since the current line-up is a very stable one.
SoT: Everyone but you in the band has changed since you released your debut album. Do you think the music presented on Artemisia still carries the trademark Sun Caged sound?
Marcel: Of course, Sun Caged is a progressive metal band. It means that the music will always have progression, so it will never sound the same; there will always be new elements on every album. You can also hear that if you check out the old demos and then the first album (the demos are for download at our website).
SoT: What in your opinion led to the departure of all the members? It started with Dennis Leeflang, then Joost, the amazing keyboard player, then Andre Vuurboom and finally the bass player van der Loo...
Marcel: With Dennis we mutually agreed that it did not work anymore. Dennis wanted different things and we also wanted different things, so we agreed on a friendly base to go our separate ways. We soon found drummer Roel Van Helden who is now already longer in the band then Dennis was in the past. Joost got an offer from After Forever and since he wanted to make music on a professional level (it means getting paid for music) he took that chance. Andre decided to go with him since Andre and he are very close friends; and Andre also wanted to go in a different musical direction. You can hear that if you check out Sphere Of Souls or you hear the new Sun Caged album, a big difference, both very good I think though, so it actually gives the prog fans more to choose, which is a good thing! Finally Rob was just tired of the struggle we had in the band finding a new singer -- the time it took and also he got tired of the prog scene a little bit; he wanted to go more simple, so he took the offer to play in the band Delain, which is also more in the Gothic kind of scene. We are still on close terms with most of the ex-Sun Caged members though.
SoT: How did you hook up with your American singer Paul Adrian Villarreal? He has even relocated to Germany in order to be able to tour with you guys.
Marcel: Paul reacted on an ad we had online where we stated that we were searching for a new singer. It was our last hope to find a good singer since we had a really hard time replacing Andre. We were not searching for a second Andre clone, but just a great singer who could contribute to Sun Caged, and luckily Paul reacted. We asked him to record an MP3 over an older song of ours. He sang the song "Hollow" with the music along, mixed his voice a lot louder then the music so we could hear what he is able to do. That sounded great, so we decided to ask him for an audition, he then came for Christmas to Bitburg (Germany), where his brother lived (and still lives), so he had a chance to jam with us and feel the chemistry. The chemistry was awesome and we are very happy that we finally found our guy. Paul then relocated to Bitburg and stayed with his brother there for a while until he and his wife found their own home in Bitburg.
SoT: Compared to Vuurboom, Villarreal is a less conventional singer for a prog metal band in the style of Sun Caged. He seems to have a stronger 70's vibe happening. Was picking him a conscious effort?
Marcel: I personally am a big fan of 70's type of singers; I always loved the voices of Kansas, Styx, Paul Rodgers, etc. Paul is right up that alley and it allows us to write in a more melodic way. Sun Caged never had a style. People always talk about the typical Sun Caged sound; well there was none. It always was a mix of different approaches from the band members. With the current line-up I, am sure we can appeal to more listeners then before, since Paul has a voice which is really easy to listen to, and we will also adapt the style to his voice.
SoT: How do you think the self-titled album and Artemisia differ from each other?
Marcel: Of course as a band we grew. I think it sounds more mature, more melodic, and less dark then the first CD. Also the production is more clear and open. Of course there will always be people who loved the darker sound more; those people can better check out Sphere Of Souls (Andre's band), since they really have that dark sound in there, we will concentrate on a more colourful style.
SoT: You seem to have cut down on long instrumental breaks on the new CD. Was that in order to create a more song-based record?
Marcel: As I said before: Paul is the reason we are writing more song-based tunes. We still have our instrumentals though, like "Engelbert the Inchworm".
SoT: Some reviewers and fans have compared Artemisia to Lemur Voice more so than Sun Caged? Did you aim to capture the melodic Lemur Voice sound on the new disc?
Marcel: I heard that a lot yes. I do not think that is a bad thing, with Lemur Voice in the past we aimed on a symphonic sound more then a metal sound. With Sun Caged we have best of both worlds I think. Sun Caged will always be more powerful then Lemur Voice, but it will have the symphonic elements we had with Lemur Voice in the past. It just happens this way; not that I aimed to write like that, though some of the riffs in "Bloodlines" were already written in the Lemur Voice days.
SoT: What are your plans for the future? Any tours scheduled yet?
Marcel: We go on a small tour in the UK in September, we play there with the bands Awake and Seventh Wonder. We are also arranging a lot of shows in our own home country and I am talking to some promoters outside of the Netherlands to go on a small tour there.
SoT: What albums have you been listening to lately? Could you list some of your favourites from 2007 so far?
Marcel: Phew, hard question, since I am not listening to a lot of music, but the bands and artists I listen to lately are bands like Dream Evil (yes old 80's heavy metal in a new production) and Tribal Tech (great fusion with Scott Henderson). I also like Killswitch Engage (brutal metalcore with melody) and I check out Italian guitarist Fabrizio Leo who I really like a lot -- great song writing and great playing. I am also still a big fan of Sting and also Meshuggah, Holdsworth, etc. Lots of different stuff as you can see, and not mainly prog music.
Marcel: Well thank you for the interview !!! Go check out http://www.suncaged.com for all the info about the band.
(Click here to read our reviews of Artemisia)