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InterviewsThird Time's a Charm for French Metal Act Stonecast with I, Earther

Posted on Sunday, April 14 2019 @ 00:36:55 CDT by Pete Pardo
Heavy Metal

The French heavy metal outfit, Stonecast, have made a distinct departure in their third album “I, Earther” that brings a deeper passion to their craft. Vocalist, Franck Ghiraldi graciously answers the questions in this revealing interview conducted by Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Mark Antony Rossi.

SoT: I, Earther isn’t a traditional concept album but it does have a deeper cohesive theme than most bands put out this early in their career. What was the thinking behind that effort?

Franck: It wasn’t predetermined I can tell you that. The Earther storyline shaped itself like a puzzle amongst all the songs we wrote. It was pretty obvious to decide which ones were going to be featured on it, even though, they didn’t seem connected at first. The cohesion came from the track list. That’s when the puzzle was completed, and each song is a piece of it. If you switch one song, then the Earther story falls apart. There’s no link, no cohesive theme anymore. We were inspired by the Uroboros concept (the snake biting its own tail, the never-ending cycle), and we gave a lot of thoughts working towards the perfect track list to such an ambitious theme. I Earther somehow reflects what’s mankind Uroboros is all about, or at least our take at it.  

SoT: While I heard minor touches of other influential bands on the album like Queensryche, Sepultura, Megadeth and Helloween it was noted that with this recent album, Stonecast has come into their own. Does this change go hand in hand with your new lyrical direction?

Franck: Thank you for acknowledging Stonecast as such. What has changed from the previous albums is the amount of work we laid on preproduction and arrangements, on top of the writing process. We really dug deep into this one. Maybe that’s why you have the feeling of Stonecast’s coming into its own now. We never went to that extent of “soul searching” before. That’s just the beginning, we have not reached the peak creatively, and artistically yet. We are more on the verge of exploring new grounds than plagiarizing ourselves on the same soil. We’re looking forward the next album, the wheels are already in motion!

Back to your question, as for the lyrics, I wrote most them on the fly, not overthinking them like I used to. So, it was a completely new approach, and a successful one according to the positive feedback. I’m used to people not paying attention to the lyrics in general, so when they do it’s pretty cool. It feels like you reached them deeper, somehow. I’ve listened to the constructive criticism from my peers, advising me to “lighten up” my game. In the end that “less is more” approach, was indeed more effective.

SoT: While categories are helpful in the marketing of bands, sometimes bands like Stonecast are harder to pin down. I heard progressive metal, power metal, symphonic metal throughout the record. Do you steer towards a certain sound or does it matter?

Franck: The answer lies in the 21s screaming of “(we are) Heavy Metal” that closed Heroikos (2nd album). We’ve been at war against wrongful labelization of the band for so many years… We had to literally scream it to be heard! Or at least try to ahah!

We are, and always have been Heavy Metal. From day one. Sometimes thrashy, sometimes progressive, or whatever else you might hear, but always Heavy Metal. Lemmy used to say Motörhead was Rock’n’Roll, yet you could hear some punk, metal, blues in their music. In that sense they took Rock’n’Roll to a new level. We’re hard to pin down because we’re not the standard copycat band, that brings nothing to the table but washed out recipes (used and abused since the Gods made Heavy Metal) and cook it poorly. We cook our own Heavy Metal, and we like the taste of it. We can’t taste it anywhere else. We, of course, use ingredients from legendary recipes, but those are well balanced in our preparation.

So, being hard to pin down (I take that as a compliment) means we’re bringing something interesting to the table of Heavy Metal. Not new, not revolutionary, just interesting with a passion. Instead of trying to be the next “insert favorite band here”, we’ll live to be the first Stonecast. That statement comes from our early days.

SoT: From my experience writers tend to stay in contact with other writers, is the band in contact with other musicians in the metal music community?

Franck: We are more and less in touch with musicians from our area, I mean we all live nearby so it’s easy to cross paths at concerts or rehearsal rooms. We’ve been around for about 17 years so we’ve seen many bands come and go. Most bands of our generation didn’t stick around, so we’re keeping closer contact with the people we worked with and appreciate. That’s few of all our former members ahah, our engineer from the beginning Thomas Tiberi (from Tom Abrigan and the Shrunken Heads). He who pulled no punches, and kicked us right in the nuts when we needed it the most. He deserves credit, not only for his work, but mainly for the wakeup call that ultimately led us to step up our game.  We made friendly connections through the years also, I can’t say we’re in touch quite often but still. Rhino, Ralf Scheepers, André Matos, Roy Z, Mark Zonder and Bill Tsamis to name a few. There are many people we would love to meet and learn from. Jon Shaffer, DD Verni, Andy Sneap, so many, mostly invisible in social networks.

  SoT: Are there principle song writers in the band or are the songs a group effort?

  Franck: Seb, Lionel and myself are the creative force from the first note played, the next word laid, and so on until the very last drop of ink printed in the booklet. We are the decisions makers and the rule of writing in this band is that there are no rules. Guitar riff, bass line, punch line, vocal melody, you name it. We get together and just bring it. It’s a team effort all the way. Egos are left at the door (or out of the band) and we’re working for what’s best for our music. If experience has taught us something, that’s exactly the need to make your ideas available or expendables for the greater good of the song, and accept it as such.  

SoT: It was only ten years ago and people were calling metal a dead form of music. These days I must hear at least ten new metal albums a month and I know there are even more than that out in the marketplace. How does Stonecast stand apart from the pack?

  Franck: Stonecast stands apart from the pack because it doesn’t belong to the pack. That’s a fact. We just don’t fit into pre-labeled standards, we are shaping our own.

We surely didn’t invent the powder, but we know how to use it, adding our little personal secret ingredient to make it more destructive. Like I said, instead of trying to be next “insert favorite band”, we’ll be the first Stonecast. Some may not like it, some will love it, some will be disappointed and some will be amazed. Nothing is granted, but at least we are creating the music we want to hear. And we would love to reach as many people possible with it. We feel there’s something missing in the scene nowadays, something that you can find in our music if you’re open enough. We try to push the boundaries of Heavy Metal by shaping our own brand. Business wise, what Stonecast needs to stand out is maximum visibility and touring offers. Our label and PR are doing the job at bringing visibility but we need to tour. What about going out on the road with Iced Earth? That would be a killer ride. Please forward the album to Jon Shaffer ahah!  

  SoT: What are the major musical influences that tend to guide the band?

  Franck: Some that are never mentioned in the reviews for a start, ahah! I’m talking mainly about Iced Earth. Without Iced Earth there is no Stonecast. Our name comes from their song, Cast in Stone. And by never having that band mentioned (probably not even once over 3 albums) as an influence means that we’ve been doing a good job. We didn’t become an ersatz of Iced Earth, and in that sense, they are more an inspiration than an influence. 

There is also Manowar, (pretty obvious in Heroïkos), Judas Priest, Blind Guardian, Wasp, Manilla Road and a bit of Iron Maiden.  Basically, none of the bands that are often mentioned in reviews. For the record Mark, we’re not fans of Queensryche, and don’t listen to Sepultura ahah. We had comparisons to Anthrax and Gamma Ray also, plus some other crazy stuffs that I don’t remember. Anyway, that’s nice still, but completely unintentional. The most important is that people enjoy the album. It doesn’t matter of who they are thinking of. We’re grateful anyway.  

Thanks, Mark for this interview.

Mark Antony Rossi

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