Two tracks might seem like little to judge a band on, but I have to say I was very impressed with the pair of songs Road Warrior presented on their debut tape release, “Ignition” a few months back. I soon established contact with main man Denny “Denimal” Blake” to get some vital information on this promising new act who already has plans for further releases. First, please let us in on the story of Road Warrior. When was the band formed and under which circumstances? I believe that you and Darren have been in at least one band together, but what made you want to perform heavy or power metal together?
– The tale of Road Warrior is short, but getting sweeter. I moulded Road Warrior from the dirty ashes of Johnny Touch, which disbanded early in 2015. Road Warrior differs to Johnny Touch, because currently I write the music solely, as opposed to sharing the writing in Johnny Touch’s latter stages. Yes, Darren and I had played, on and off, in the ancient Australian death thrash band Intellect Devourer. He performed guitar on the debut Road Warrior demo. Heavy metal is my vantage point for all subsequent musical excursions and was always something I wanted to pursue since the nineties. I also discovered, and now due to singing also, that heavy metal was one of the most challenging styles of metal to compose…; to balance vocal melody with lyrical content, hooks, to employ scope of song-style, like the old bands used to….as opposed to drilling out ten same-sounding songs. I guess many people assume that the extreme metal we hear today is some sort of superior evolution in the path of metal music, and if you can play brutal black or death metal, then heavy metal is a proverbial piece of cake. Turns out this sentiment or belief is bullshit.
At the time of recording, Road Warrior consisted of you and Darren only. I know that you have been searching actively for one or more members. Is it still the two of you, or have you recruited more members since the recording? Is it mainly the desire to play live that drives you when it comes to recruiting new members?
-As of now, there has been no active recruitment, as it’s tough to attract members without a firm release in hand. While Darren will stay in Germany, I will be returning to Australia early next year, and will try to recruit members there. I want a full four piece line-up for Road Warrior in order to play live and they surely can inject their ideas if they are interested or able. Live shows are a primary focus along with high-frequency output of releases. Frankly put, a band needs to play live to best spread their message of unyielding iron. Heavy metal is always heavier live. It must be done. Nothing hones a band faster than playing live. Nothing irons out the wrinkles swifter. Nothing dampens the panties of fast women faster!
Has the fact that you have been living in Germany for a while, made the search for further band members even more challenging?
-Yes it has, because I don’t really have the connections here in the southern end of Germany. If I had moved to anywhere else in Europe it might have been different. Here where I live, I haven’t met many old-school heavy metal die-hards. They all seem to prefer festival metal. Or stoner rock. Or Rammstein. Or Sabaton.
When were the two songs on the demo, “Thrill Of The Kill” and “The First Strike” written? Are they based on collaboration between yourself and Darren, or do you write songs on your own?
-Except for the guitar solos, I wrote everything. “The First Strike” was written a couple of years back, originally intended for Johnny Touch, while “Thrill Of The Kill” was the first song written with Road Warrior in my mind and heart. Since Road Warrior began, my song writing has focused sharply and I have been writing at an uprecedented speed!
Two tracks might seem little for a demo release. Were these the only songs you had ready at the time, or were there other reasons why you didn’t record one or two additional songs?
-There was a potential third track, but I was struggling to create appropriate vocals for it. It was also a song I had written for Johnny Touch a few years back, but it was never played live. I didn’t want the debut demo of Road Warrior to contain a majority of Johnny Touch songs! I also fantasised the two songs would fit securely on a 7-inch EP. The demo has sold well and the hunger for more is prevalent.
Give us a little insight in the recording process of the demo. You have recorded on your own gear, and probably had as much time as you wanted to invest into the recordings. Are they as good you would like them to be, or do you think a proper studio would have improved them?
-Initially the demo tracks were to be for personal use only, in order to find band members and promote the band. But HMH Records and Heavy Chains prompted a swift release in the cassette format you see now. We recorded with a “home” set-up, which was pretty decent I believe. Certainly good enough for a demo! We didn’t spend long on the recordings actually. All tracking was done very quickly. I am sure it could be done better now, but what for? I doubt these songs will be re-recorded again anyway, they have had their vibe sufficiently captured at that point in time.
When you recorded the two songs, was the ambition to have them released on physical format, for instance on a vinyl single, or as a tape release, or were you content with having them released on digital format only?
-The only aim was to record for ourselves and attract the right maniax to the cause of Road Warrior. I sent the recording to HMH Records, because the owner is an old comrade of mine from Australia, and he jumped all over it like a fat woman to a pile of hot pancakes. He then forwarded it to Heavy Chains and they asked to release it on cassette. Why the fuck not!?
With one of the best underground labels around coming out of Australia, I guess it was easy when Heavy Chains came knocking…
-The initial interest in the demo was from HMH Records, then Heavy Chains. They offered to collaborate and they both did a great job between them. There are not many labels in Australia in general, but Heavy Chains has something going right, that is for sure. It is really making a name for itself!
The material was recorded late last year and early this year. Have you recorded anything else since, or have you focused on writing new material?
-I have been recording on my home set-up, for writing purposes only. Next year will mark more intense activity from the band. I want to ensure there are ample songs available before any recording, because sometimes, certain songs just do not come out as intended in a given studio session, or particular studio. Next year we will record a mini-LP.
Give us a little insight into the band name, Road Warrior. It surely must be inspired by the movie “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” from the early eighties, and it seems this movie also inspired some of the descriptions you are using on Facebook and Bandcamp as well, along with the drawing of the car and maybe also the title of the demo “Ignition”. Would you go as far as calling it a concept, or is Road Warrior “just” a band name?
-I gotta be honest here Leif, when the name cruised into my skull, I had not married the name with the movie title at that point, until someone pointed it out to me much later. The concept of the band is the continuation of that explored in Johnny Touch, but thus far the imagery is heading that way. Road Warrior is a nod to the modern warrior, the post-apocalyptic warrior, the ancient warrior. The name will evolve with the band, and vice-versa, so we’ll see. It sounds tough, that’s mostly what I care about.
As I mentioned in my review of the demo, the two songs are quite similar in some aspects. What can you say about the rest of the songs you have ready, are they in the vein of these two songs, or do you have songs that go in different directions as well? Is diversity important for you? If so, how do you try to show this in your songwriting?
-I think the tracks are somewhat different in compositional style, but being that there are only two tracks, they needed to have a similar flavour to establish a feel. Having two vastly different tracks would not be sufficient to convey an imprint on the listener. The new material is very diverse, as is the style of heavy metal. Slow, swift, ballads, hard rock, epic….you will see. Or hear.
Your Bandcamp-page says: “Ignition” will destroy weak stereos and melt delicate ears”…Listening to a lot of stuff coming out today, I seldom get the feeling that I am listening to something with real power. Most of the stuff sounds slick and feels designed for mass consumption. There are exceptions of course, but why do you think heavy metal anno 2016 has become like this?
-I agree wholeheartedly. I think the more melodic, or let’s say “happier” style of heavy metal has its place, but there seems to be an overflow. My personal influences are different and I know Road Warrior will sit amongst these other bands, in its own place. As for why the modern scene sounding slick…well it could be the product of digital recording and engineering. Digital recordings can be cleaned up so easily to sound artificially slick. In the older days, more emphasis was levered on the actual sound and performance of a band. I think even simple things like click tracks have nullified some of the live impression a band needs to imprint honestly in the studio. I often say that I prefer a production, as opposed to the latest production.
You seemed to agree with at least some of the things I wrote in my review of the demo tape here. Was it the general description of your music, the loose references to other acts or something else you agreed with?
-Your review, was honest, for seemingly better and worse. I guessed you described it to a fine detail I might have observed myself. All the band references, the approach, the nuances, even describing my vocals, it was uncanny. It seems you know your metal and your ear is sharp! Haha!
Your Facebook-address adds 1986 to Road Warrior. It could have a different meaning of course, but I guess, you like me, feel that this was a special year when it comes to metal releases. Griffin, Sentinel Beast, Candlemass, Savage Grace, Flotsam & Jetsam, Sacred Blade, Metal Church and Powerlord, to name just a few, released awesome albums.
-Totally agreed. This era has not really been touched upon influentially nowadays, yet this brand of powerful metal sits enthroned, very near to my heart.
It seems like you prefer to speak about your music as power metal. What is your definition of power metal, and what do you think about the way media and fans use the term today?
-The term “power metal” was effectively stamped onto slightly faster and heavier, sometimes darker, heavy metal during the mid-eighties. It was a term sometimes interchangeable with speed metal. Many of the bands you just mentioned, were considered Power metal. I know Road Warrior is different to the modern swing of New Wave Of Heavy Metal, and I intend to keep it that way. In fact it cannot be avoided. The modern power metal movement is seemingly not associated with the original tag. That is a different beast and seemed to rear its rainbow coloured head in the early nineties.
How much work have you put into your vocals for the demo recordings, as you told me you have only sung extreme metal vocals before? What was the biggest challenge for you?
– I have sung clean vocals sporadically in my other death metal bands, but nowhere near this degree. Attention to vocal melody is definitely a challenge. Playing an instrument and singing melodically is certainly tougher than death metal vocals. I think the biggest challenge is getting past the inital stages of sounding like an amateur. People judge bands harshly by their vocalist, so I don’t desire to be the weak point that people’s interest hinges on! Plus the old heavy metal vocalists were so fucking good. I set my standards there. Aim high.
How do you feel your vocals have improved since you recorded the demo?
– I have expanded and strengthened the timbre of my vocals. Instead of going wild and screaming my ball-sack off, I decided to sing well in a consistent range. I did all my vocals in two takes, on the demo. I want to be confident on stage, knowing that I will represent the takes on the recordings. I practice many times per week, utilizing specialized singing courses. The course keeps my technique correct and able to avoid vocal burnout as I get older.
From what you already told us, your next release will be a MLP. Do you have any details already, like the title and number of songs? Will the two songs from the demo be included? If so, will it be new recordings? Will you use your own equipment to record again, or will you be using a more professional studio?
– Correct. So many first, and great, classic metal releases were MLP’s. Road Warrior are working out a record deal with Gates Of Hell Records, whom are a sister-label of Cruz Del Sur. So it’s a great stroke of fortune we connected. The debut MLP we will call “Power”, and it will feature four new songs plus the two demo tracks tacked on the end to add headbangability for money spent. Plus the demo just sold out in Europe and is running very low in the Southern end of the earth. The new songs will be recorded in a studio, except maybe vocals, which I might do myself. We shall see. But you can hedge bets on an obscure eighties production. I would rather have a production that is definitive to the band, not a polished, treble-soaked digital turd. Thank you Leif. A great webzine you run, which I, myself, read as a fan. I have already bought a couple of albums based on the reviews on your site!