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November 15, 2018

Interview OLD SEASON

The time of melodic and epic heavy metal from Dublin, Ireland!

Good day OLD SEASON! How are you guys doing these days?

Great! Thanks for having us. We’re busy preparing for some upcoming shows and working on tracks for the next release.

First of all, please introduce your band and band members to our readers.

We are Old Season from County Kildare in Ireland. We play our own style of Epic/Melodic metal.
We have John Bonham on vocals, Dave Copley on Bass, Jimmy Blanchfield on guitars, Jimmy Kiernan on guitars and backing vocals, Anto Walsh on Drums and Dermod Smyth on keyboards/piano. We’re doing great! We’re busy promoting our newest release ‘Beyond The Black’, and are finishing off the track structures for our next release!

I’d like to know about the formation of the band. How did you guys meet and all. Also, is there any special story behind the band title?

Anto and Dermod were playing in Karnayna, which was the previous band before it came to become Old Season. I (Jimmy Blanchfield) was playing in a garage band with Anto’s younger brother (also, both our fathers played together for over 40 years, so we knew of each other since we were kids). We weren’t that great, but Anto used to come out to the garage and jam some Metallica, Slayer songs, etc… with me. We had good chemistry together and had similar tastes in music. He was a bit older and was a great drummer, even back then. Anto was playing with Karnayna sometime around then and a position came up to play bass. I was recommended and I took the position. Within a few months, the original bass player came back. I think I fitted well with the lads and they made a position for me as second guitarist. We then drafted in Frank on vocals, who Anto and Dermod would have known from school and on the scene at the time. It was then that we changed the name to Old Season. We went forward for a few years with this lineup: Phillip and me on guitars, Ciaran on bass, Frank on vocals, Dermod on keys and Anto on drums. Before we wrote Archaic Creation, Ciaran and Phillip left. Phillip recommended a replacement for himself – Ciaran Doyle, a young guitar player that he knew from Dublin. We tried him out and he fitted very well. We advertised for a bass player and that’s when we met Dave. I was living in Carlow town, where Dave is from, and I met with him and had a jam. We were really impressed by Dave’s style and reliability. His cool and calm demeanor was also a personality trait that he had and the rest of us probably needed! So that was our lineup for Archaic Creation: Dave, Anto, Frank, Ciaran Doyle, Dermod and myself. Unfortunately, a couple of years after the release, Ciaran and Frank left because of other commitments and we were back looking for members. Dave knew of Jimmy Kiernan from the Carlow musicians scene. As soon as we tried him out we knew he was a great fit; great personality and musical fit for us. It took a few more years auditioning many singers before we found John! When we did, we knew straight away he was perfect for us. A great guy and great singer with an all round musical brain. This is our current lineup and for us, the most exciting. The rehearsal room is always booming with creativity and we all get on really well together, it’s a very fun environment.

The name Old Season was thought of by Anto. It conjures up images of a time and state before ‘now’ – our time of modern complexities. What we liked about the name is that it suited our approach to the music in that it didn’t tie us down to any particular sub-genre. It doesn’t point to any specific type of metal, which allows us the room to explore all our range of influences.

I expect a long reply for this one. Can you please tell us about the concept and lyrical themes of all your previous releases?

Volume 1 and Archaic Creation are essentially a collection of stories set in far off times. In Archaic Creation, for example, ‘Meet me on the Battlefield’ is about local Irish infantry facing down the might of a foreign imperial army. ‘Forever Damned’ is based on the Irish Myth/Legend of the Banshee. ‘At the Hollow’ takes inspiration from the legend of Sleepy Hollow. ‘Prowler’ has a more modern theme. It was inspired by the serial killer Ed Gein but the lyrical style ties it in with the others very well. There is a mythical feel to them all really, and it tied in nicely with the ‘Archaic’ theme of the album. Within the stories, there are issues and topics that we touch on but we have them shrouded in the mythical imagery of the songs. It is really up to the listener to decipher these. We approached both these records the same, we didn’t go in with any specific concepts, we just tried to tie them all together through the lyrical style more than the lyrical concept. It gave us a lot of freedom to move around thematically, without needing to box the songs in with a particular concept, just to fit an album. This really suited us at that time. With Beyond The Black, we jumped more into modernity and we had a specific concept in mind that we wanted to explore. Beyond The Black is essentially an exploration of the everyday human psyche in our modern world. There is a major theme of inner turmoil and the inability to control one’s own inner reality when faced with the pressures of external reality. People often get trapped in a negative thought cycle that can make them feel like a prisoner in their own heads. This often comes to a head when faced with the stresses and pressures of modern life, particularly in a society that doesn’t naturally equip people with the coping mechanisms to deal with these problems. Beyond The Black is an exploration of this, and as a result, it touches on themes like depression, anxiety, psychosis, seclusion, personal development, and there is more in there for the listener to explore and decipher. There are also hints of positivity and ‘a light within the darkness’, but we’ll let the listeners uncover this. I mean, different things resonate with different people, and some will find meaning where others won’t, so we won’t spoil the discovery!

Is there any special reason for choosing your music conception?

We have always only concentrated on writing songs that we like. With 6 of us having different musical tastes, styles and interests, and everyone being involved in the writing, arrangement or editing process, we trust that the end product is going to be good. There’s a good chance that if a song is approved and liked by all 6 of us, there will be others who like it too. It’s really important for bands to write music that they want to write and not to try and jump on a trend or emulate a band that’s ‘in vogue’. The reality is that what is fashionable and popular changes quite quickly, and is often unpredictable. To try being popular by aiming your songwriting at a current trend is trying to hit a moving target. I think if you spend too much time considering what your audience might like or dislike, the music suffers. For us, it is important that our music is true to us and conveys depth, emotion and represents us as a group. As for the genre of our style, I think we borrow a little from a variety of genres and blend them in our own unique way. We have never boxed ourselves into any particular style. This is important for us as musicians. It allows us more freedom to express ourselves without having to restrict the music into a sub or micro genre. We understand the need for others, and the industry as a whole, to have to categorize us, we just don’t want to do it to ourselves! I suppose a wider term like ‘Melodic Metal’ or ‘Epic Metal’ is one we might edge more comfortably towards.

How do you guys manage to create music at all? What challenges do you face while writing and recording an album?

The impetus of the songs can come from myself or any of the others at any given time. Smyth (Keyboards) does often come to rehearsals with a riff on the piano and the guitars and everything else would rally behind it. From there, myself and the others would compose the rest of the song around the original riff. We then put a basic structure on the song and as time goes by we edit it, play around with different ideas, then nail down the final structure with the vocals. However, this process can often start with the guitars, vocals or drums. The great thing about playing in this band is that we get riffs and ideas from everywhere. While I’m probably the most proactive, everyone else contributes, writes and arranges with me as a solid team. Jimmy K sometimes starts the process when he comes in with a riff, John sometimes picks up the guitar and plays a riff he thinks should be played or he might have a whole song idea that he wants us to jam out. Anto could have a riff in his head and would just sing it out and the guitars would emulate it. Dave is your stereotypical bass player – super chilled, goes with the flow, but is super confident in his own capabilities when it comes to taking control of his own parts. It’s amazing. Everyone has the ability to write and arrange songs and we all respect each other’s opinions. For me, this gives the music a lot of depth and dynamic, 6 writers are better than 1.

The main challenges we face when doing a record is picking and arranging songs that will suit an album as a whole. They all need to sit comfortably together and need to be placed in such a way as to give the album a wide dynamic. While we want the songs on the album to have a cohesive, stylistic thread going through them, we place great emphasis on trying to have each song sound different than the last. It’s important for us not to have any 2 songs sound the same. While this is hard to accomplish across a whole discography, we have enough writers to be able to do this comfortably within each album.

“Beyond The Black” was released in May 2017. How was the experience working on the studio? Any funny or even sad happenings during the studio work?

When we recorded Archaic Creation, we used Foel Studios, Wales. It was a great experience for us and we have very fond memories from that time. The engineer was a real perfectionist and the set-up there was very professional. The only real problem was the distance. If you’re travelling abroad, you really have to have every element of the songs completed with a solid schedule in mind. If you spend too much time experimenting and messing around with parts, it’s easy to go over time, and this will eat into someone else’s recording slot. There’s a lot of pressure in that environment and it’s not always conducive to a creative atmosphere. The great thing about working with Michael in Trackmix (Dublin) is we had a lot of time between recording sessions and this allowed us time to get a feel for the parts that were recorded on any given day. We could take it home, work on it, then make any alterations the next session. It was much more relaxed and nothing was rushed. Michael is very professional, has great gear and really knows what he’s doing. He worked very hard for us on this album and we couldn’t recommend him enough. We were all very happy with the results. I mean, every record is a learning experience that you bring with you into the next one. We have learned stuff now that I know will make the next album even better. There was a lot on Archaic Creation that I wanted to improve on, mainly for the guitars, and I’m personally very happy that we achieved this on this record. I think we all really came together as a team on this and everyone helped each other out as much as possible.

You guys are still underground/underrated, although your music has been appreciated by the critics worldwide. What, according to you, is the reason behind it?

We can’t say for sure exactly why this is but there are a couple of possible explanations. Archaic Creation was self released. We didn’t have any major help in promoting it other than the efforts of some fans, critics and promoters within the scene. We also didn’t really know enough on how to promote it ourselves. Musicians don’t often make the best marketers or administrators and we really focused so much on the music that everything else was just an afterthought. So I don’t think we hit anywhere near our market potential with that record, which may have put us on the backfoot. Also, the line-up change after that album took a lot of momentum away. The fanbase we had built internationally had heard very little from us for a good few years while we were auditioning singers and building up a pile of songs. Out of sight, out of mind. Momentum plays an important part in capitalising on exposure and building a fanbase, when it’s gone, the fans have little reason to have you on their radar. Another possible reason is that we haven’t met the right promoters yet, people who can get us on the bill of some of the renowned European festivals and shows where we can reach the audiences we’re trying to capture. With us signing to PureSteel Records and the release of Beyond The Black, I don’t think we are very far from where we want to be. Another record in the next 12 to 15 months and few more epic live shows will really help us drive home our presence on the scene.

Can you throw some light on your past as musicians?

We all come from a variety of musical backgrounds and styles, from Classical Music, Blues Rock, Classic Rock, Groove, and Metal. We’ve all pretty much played in various musical projects before we met and a few of us do some other projects outside the band but Old Season is our main commitment and our most important musical venture at this point in our careers. We all really appreciate different genres of music and we love writing. Old Season allows us to express the large varieties of inspirations that we get.

Tell us about your favorite bands, from whom you gain inspiration. Are you having any favorite artist/band that has emerged from metal/rock soil?

There really isn’t any One band that we draw our inspiration from. It is very hard for us to nail down specific influences, or a favorite band, because we all listen to such a variety of music. Some of the bands that come to mind would be Amorphis, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dream Theater, Opeth, Thin Lizzy and the list really goes on and on, sometimes extending outside the metal genres. We try to blend them all very subtly, to the point where you could have 4 different people listening to the same song and have all of them name 4 different bands as possible influences. Iron Maiden are certainly a band that have coloured our style throughout the years. I think they set a great template for how drums, bass, vocals and twin guitars should interact with each other throughout a song, how they weave in and out of the limelight and step back at times to leave the other members room to develop their own part. It’s a real team effort and they’re not battling each other for attention the whole time. They’re a foundational influence for a lot of metal bands in the last 20 years, including ourselves. Nicko McBrain would certainly be a big influence on Anto, as Bruce Dickinson would be for John. Amorphis have probably shaped our guitar style a little as well. I love their use of long, low octave, melodic phrasing on guitars. Also, they really respect ‘space’, not filling every gap with unnecessary fills. The likes of Opeth and Dream Theater are also bands we have looked towards for inspiration on song structures. We like their deviance from the traditional Intro/Verse, Pre-Chorus/Chorus structure, and how they sometimes explore and expand on a musical theme throughout a song, similar to what you would see in Classical Music. They often transition between differing styles of riffs, rhythms and phrasing seamlessly and are great at using dynamic builds and breakdowns. I know John also takes some influence from James LaBrie’s vocal style. In terms of the keyboards and how they fit with us, we haven’t really looked for influence from other bands. Smyth has a unique way of playing and we just let him off to do his thing. It works out well that he doesn’t come from a metal background. He isn’t limited by any perceived or imagined boundaries and his style is a major factor in our overall ‘sound’ or ‘style’.

How is the metal scene going in your country?

Ireland is small but it punches above its weight when exporting top class bands of all genres. We have some fantastic metal acts here that are doing great things on the international scene. Because it’s a relatively small, although growing scene, a lot of the bands here know each other and help each other out. We’ve been helped and given advice by plenty of bands here over the years and we’ve done the same for others and will continue to do so into the future. It’s a great community feel.

When we first started out here in Ireland, the scene was booming. Guys and girls were popping out of nowhere and organising big gigs and events throughout the country. However, with the recession that hit here and the rest of Europe, the whole pub scene and live events market took a hit. People were a lot more cautious about spending their money in general, and very few people were willing to take the risk on organising gigs because of the potential for loss. In the last 2 years, we’ve noticed that things are really starting to get back to a healthy state. The live venues are back booming again and there’s a lot more metal gigs being organised throughout the country. What I’ve really noticed is the wide demographics of the audiences now. It’s very encouraging to see. There’s a lot of new faces turning up to shows. People of all ages and from a variety of different musical backgrounds are coming to experience the metal shows on offer all over the country. It seems to be in a very positive place at the moment. There was probably a perception years back that the metal scene was an elitist scene, closed to outsiders. Now, everything seems more open. People who may not be particularly into metal are paying to go and see some live bands and seem to really enjoy the live atmosphere and comradery between the fans. It’s a very positive development.

Tell us, if you have played abroad.

Yes. We’ve played at Up The Hammers in Athens twice before, fantastic event. We’ve also played at The Hammer Of Doom in Germany and The Baroeg in Rotterdam. We hope to get back to these soon, as well as looking to try out some new festivals and shows in some other countries.

Are you working on any music videos, might it be videoclip or lyric video?

We are certainly open to working on both. I think a lyric video will be the first to happen. We’d love to do a full, dramatic music video for one of the songs but we need to see if we can find the right people to make it happen. It’s very easy to make a music video, but I think it’s a lot more difficult to make the ‘right’ video. What we certainly don’t want is just a video of us playing our instruments in a forest or mountain top, with little relevance to the musical and lyrical themes. Our music is dramatic and it conjures up images and scenes far greater than us as individuals. We would like to get a dramatic storyline and good visuals to help best represent and do justice to the songs. Hopefully, this is something we can work on in the near future.

Rapid fire section. Just for fun. So just chill, and just type the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear:
* Season – Old
* Soda – Pop
* Jack – Daniels
* Heaven and … –Hell
* James – LaBrie

Thanks a lot for your time! It’s really nice to know more about you. Would you like to say anything to your fans and our readers?

We would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who continues to support us. Without you, we couldn’t be out doing the things we’re doing. A lot of people have contacted us through our social media outlets and website, and it’s been a pleasure to meet and talk to people from all around the world. For those of you who are only discovering us, we look forward to hearing from you online or meeting you at some of our shows. We’ll see you all soon! You can keep up to date with shows and merch through our website www.oldseason.com or on our facebook, twitter or instagram pages. Cheers!