HolyHell interview (10/2009)
|With:||Maria Breon (vocals)|
|Conducted by:||wrathchild (in person)|
HolyHell is a band you might have seen performing in a some of the biggest European festivals this year, despite the fact that their debut and self-titled album wasn't released until June. Since they're signed to Magic Circle, they supported Manowar who opened many doors to this new band fronted by vocalist Maria Breon and featuring guitar hero Joe Stump. Now that summer is over, HolyHell is on a promotional tour in Europe. Let's learn a bit more about them.
Hi Maria. First, for the readers who don't know HolyHell yet, can you briefly describe the band's music, what genre it is for you, how you would define it?
Well HolyHell is a concept that I started as early as 1999. I met Joey DeMaio in a studio and from there I explained to him I was considering putting a band together and I started the concept of HolyHell and during that time I learned a lot about the music business, the importance of good songs and musicians and we were able, fortunately, to put a very strong line up together, so that created HolyHell.
In 2005 we came together, we reheaserd 4 times and then we went out to the stage, we did the US leg of a tour opening for Manowar and then we played the Masters Of Rock festival in 2005 and the Eearthshaker festival. We were able to take that live experience into the studio and into the concept of HolyHell and it proved that conceptually we all fit very well together, musically we fit. It was very important for me to have melodic music as much as heavy music because it's where my heart is. I've always been a big fan of heavy metal. It was always a struggle for me at the conservatory where it was preen and proper and classically based music and bringing the concept of heavy metal is like ARGH!
How many years did you study?
I studied for 3 years, at the conservatory. It was important for me to learn the proper technique of vocal, proper areas in singing, in training, in theory. I was able to take that knowledge and put it into HolyHell, a very exciting thing. The concept of the band is darkness and light, musically speaking and lyrically speaking, and the style of music is really not focussed on one particular group of people, I think it's a concept that can be identified in many ways.
Would you say it's something of power metal, heavy metal, symphonic...
Would you say epic too?
I think a lot of people put that description to the band especially after listening to the records and our live performances. I think there are inherently a lot of epic properties in the music itself and also in the lyrics, because the lyrics are really based on a lot of philosophical literature, you know I love Paradise Lost, Dante's Inferno, Faust, things like this that I find so intriguing and it's just a timeless subject.
You told me you started talking about the project with Joey DeMaio in 1999, so how did you meet him?
We met when he was in the studio mixing the Hell On Stage live album. The engineer he was working with had a demo of mine and so they invited me to the studio. Joey had a lot of compliments for the voice and the singing but he had a lot of desperate things to say about the songwriting and the music, you know, so it was a very interesting moment. But we kept in touch and started working together. He thought that I was definitely a dedicated person and that there was a lot of potential so he spent a lot of time developing me as an artist before the concept of HolyHell.
I had a look on the Internet and you appear to be credited as guest vocalist for a song on Warriors Of The World.
Yes I did the background vocals on the "American Trilogy". That was actually one of the first time I sang in a studio so it was a very interesting experience and after that I was able to relax a lot more and understand the path I'd be going with HolyHell. To say that I attended the school Joey DeMaio is, I don't think it's an understatement, I learned a lot of things in the past ten years from him and I've been very very fortunate.
On this song you're credited as Mary and not Maria, so is Maria a stagename?
Well actually, the name Maria and Mary in America, you know, it's kind of a nickname but it's also the name I chose to use for stage. You'll hear the guys in the band sometimes call me Mary it's kind of a shortened version.
Ok that's for the piece of trivia.
Were you involved in choosing the musicians for the band, Joe Stump, Francisco, etc.?
Absolutely, absolutely. Rhino [drummer] had a few projects that he was doing. I've met him for the first time in 2001, I believe. He and I started to know each other a little bit and then Joey introduced the music concept that we were working on and he immediatly showed a fond interest in the project and said "I would love to be involved", so that was always in the back corner.
And then Joe Stump I was fortunate that he came to the studio to do a guest appearance. We were in the process of doing a demo I think of "Wings Of Destiny", we were working with Rhapsody, and I was working a little bit with Manuel Staropoli, the brother of Alex Staropoli. And Joe heard what we were working on and he said "What's the idea?" so I described the concept and he as like "I'm in, I would love to be involved". It kind of all started from there.
But the problem was I had been searching for many many years for a keyboard player and it's very important for me as a vocalist, it's my right arm. So, that was the missing ingredient. We were very very fortunate that we have a promoter/manager friend who was working with Joey who happened to be working with Francisco at the same time and since he found out I was looking for that type of person he said "I know the perfect find" so he sent all his information in and the moment I put the music on I just knew... perfect. We decided to go out live immediatly because the guys in the band had a lot more experience, I had never played with a band, I had never performed with a band and so it was important for me to go out live.
Where was your first concert?
First concert was in my hometown, Ohio.
Did it add to the tension?
I think I had more excitement because I was finally getting to do what I had worked so long to put together. Of course I always had this feeling, like "I hope I'm gonna be able to do this" because I had never performed with a band, it was always, you know, with an accompanist, pianist, but I had my inhibition so I was very excited when we did the first rehearsal and then when we went out live the response from the crowd was amazing. We really thought we had something special, everyone kept asking for a record and we didn't have anything. A very different way of going about things.
It seems there was another member in the band, guitarist Tom Hess , can you tell me about him?
Sure. You know in the beginning it was very important for me to have 2 guitar players. I have this deep love for the rhythm guitar. Of course I appreciate lead playing as well but there's something about a good rhythm player that just gets in my soul. I really wanted to have a second guitar player. But once getting out and working with the band and really getting to learn how the guitars work and so forth, it was a little too much to have both. And then I learned right away that Joe Stump could provide enough guitar for the whole world with his playing (laughs).
So, it was a mutual thing you know, Tom had some other interest and it made sense conceptually for us to part ways so it worked out very well for both sides.
HolyHell, with Tom Hess (from left to right: Joe Stump, Rhino, Maria, Tom, Jay, Francisco)
Are you the main songwriter for the band?
I am the main lyric writer, Francisco is the main composer along with Joe Stump and Joey's main role in the band is producing so of course he taught me a lot about lyric writing and how to work with the music, all of us we make a very very good songwriting team.
About the lyrics, I heard the whole album and I understand you like rimes in "i", you know, "Eyes, Sky, Light, Night"... "Crucify" too I think but I couldn't find any "Die" alhtough it's very common in metal. Do you have something against this word?
"Die"? No no no, I have nothing against it. I'm very, very open to what the music is saying to me and I come up with a concept and the words really just flow out, making sure that they sing well and of course these words "Light" and "Night" fit conceptually with what the band is playing and what the lyrics are saying and they are also words that sing well.
But I'm sure one day "Die" will find its way into the songs (laughs).
"One day", so when can we expect a new album?
The thing that's very interesting is that we have an enormous amount of creativity flowing now that we have this strong songwriting unit it's just a continuum. So we have a lot of material for the next record but right now our main focus is getting out live and promoting the record and meeting as many people as we can possibly can.
But it's a really good feeling to know that we have a very strong songwriting team and when we're on the road we can keep it coming, it's very interesting for us.
I searched a bit for the album on the Internet but all I could find was the mp3 package such as what there is on the Magic Circle website. Is it really available as a CD?
Yes it is available as a CD on several different territories but online I believe it's available on amazon.com and it will be available on the Kingdom Of Steel in a few short weeks. But we are getting a lot of emails "we're trying to buy the record but we can't", "I have the download but I want the record". It's really great that there's a demand so now I'm just wanna make sure that we get the distribution.
Are you still touring nowadays or is the tour over?
We just came off the festival tour, we played Finland, France which was amazing, we played Spain, Romania, Norway, and in Germany and then now we're doing this press tour and we should be getting confirmed dates for the winter tour. The plan is we go out one last time with Manowar as special guests and after that another tour in march where we'll be supporting another band or doing a tour of our own and maybe as co-headliners, something like that.
I've got a question that applies to many bands nowadays. The site www.holyhell.com redirects towards the band's Myspace. Is Myspace providing everything you need?
Oh our HolyHell site is getting ready to be relaunched. Of course Myspace is a very powerful tool these days, Facebook, and all of that, but it's been a nice intermediary solution while we've been relaunching our site because it was very much oriented towards the EP [Apocalypse, released in 2005] and the thing is the band spent so much time on the road, and you know, getting the record done and getting out on the road again, it was a lot of work so the site didn't really keep up with what we were doing so thankfully we had Myspace to use as an intermerdiary until the new site is out.
I forgot a question about Hellfest, which was happening during the release of the album. Did you have a release party there?
No, we didn't have a release party. We had the Hellfest performance and we were rewarded with great CD sales, we had a tremendous response from the crowd there so that was really a rewarding expercience but it was really not possible for us to have a release party with our schedule.
I'm done with my questions, if you have anything you want to add, feel free.
Absolutely, well first of all I want to really thank you for your time we really appreciate. To France we cannot wait to come back and play live, it was a great show at Hellfest, we enjoyed it so much so we're looking forward to returning.
Thanks to Roger and Olivier from Replica Records and of course to Maria and Francisco.
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