APPARITION

APPARITION is a band that you should check out if you like your metal on the symphonic side. Anders Ekdahl ©2018

Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
-The original intention behind Apparition was to create interesting, well-received music and to enjoy playing with like-minded people. The Apparition of today is still based on that same premise. Back in 1997 David Homer (bassist) first visualised a studio project called ‘The Pain Lives On’ when he was part of death metal band ‘Asphyxiator’, and together with some of his fellow members, by 2004, this project developed into a more active metal band – Apparition – after a full line-up was established. Apparition today certainly embodies the original essence of David’s 1997 project and there have been lots of adventures over the years, with some line-up changes and fantastic guest contributors, but the idea is still to make melodic metal and get it out there, and most of all to take pride and pleasure in doing so. There was never a distinct vision beyond that, or a set goal or ambition so the work has remained fluid over the years and follows the passion and enthusiasm of those involved. David is a key driving force in that, with Fiona Creaby (vocalist) becoming more involved over the years in the organisation and identity of the band, particularly since re-joining the band in 2014 after 5 years away, the idea is still to keep enjoying what we do and we take a relaxed view to live work and are enjoying experimenting with new material. Overall, we feel that the band is doing well and we are proud of everything that has been achieved to date, especially the new album – The Awakening – due for release 02/02/18 – and we are thankful to everyone that has taken part in the Apparition ‘evolution’ over the years.

How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
-We are very pleased with The Awakening and how the the composition of each song developed from initial conception. Some songs were longer in the making than others as some were later additions and didn’t go through as much development in the writing process, but they were all certainly bigger and better than we had expected. With the addition of Paul ‘Kull’ Culley in late-2014 as we began to write the album, this brought a depth to the music that compliments both David’s and Fiona’s writing. With Amy Lewis on guitar and Ashley Guest (also of Benediction and Besieged) on drums joining the line-up in 2014, this gave us an even wider mix of influences, talents, ideas and sounds to work with. We feel this album is more atmospheric and more varied than earlier albums but still has that sense of melodic energic passion that David’s writing has always carried. There is not much we would change about the composition and some songs certainly exceeded the initial vision we had for them. From finishing the writing process all the way to announcing the release, it did take more time than we envisioned: 2 years in all. When we recorded at Hertz Studio (Poland) in late 2015 it was great to be able to dedicate a period of time solely to tracking the album. Due to time constraints, mixing could not start until 2016, and it took place in phases as Fiona travelled over to Hertz, sometimes with Kull, to work on the mix with the Wieslawski Brothers. Although mastering was complete by late Summer 2016, we knew it would take a little time to find a label and negotiate a deal, especially given the other commitments we all had at the time, and we also needed to produce all the other assets that go along with making an album – artwork, photos, website, videos – which we did not set about making until 2017. Fiona is also the vocalist with Greek metal band Fallen Arise and had touring commitments in 2016 and 2017 as well as her doctorate to complete so we knew that we needed about a year before we would be ready to set and announce the release date. But this actually worked well and gave us the time to find the right label and were very pleased to sign with WormholeDeath Records in September 2017 for the worldwide physical and digital distribution of the album with a promotion campaign for the release. Overall, we are really thrilled with The Awakening – musically, visually and creatively – and there are still moments we each put it on and step back and say ‘yep, we all did a great job’ and we are all very proud of that, and of each other.

Do you feel that you by now has found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it ?*
-We have gone through a great evolution since the first vision of what would become Apparition in 1997 by David, especially over the last few years. When Fiona re-joined in 2014, only David remained as an original member from the 2004 line-up. In 2014, still as a 5-piece line-up, we moved to a dual-guitarist line-up when Ash and Amy joined and Fiona returned to the band, alongside David and the then current guitarist Nick Whitmore in 2014. This was after David’s earlier decision not to continue with a live keyboard player and instead programme the sequencing to enhance our live and studio work. This idea came after several shows without a keyboardist had presented the opportunity to trial this model but at that point featured only Nick on guitars and some basic sequencing from studio recordings. It was quickly evident to David that Apparition needed something more and so a dual guitar line-up and skilled programming for piano and orchestration was felt the best way to develop a fuller sound and this is when David recruited Amy after seeing her play with her first band in Birmingham and was extremely impressed with her talent. David also wanted to recruit a permanent drummer who embodied an energic and solid feel and approached Ashley after hearing about his work, who has always been formally rooted in thrash metal, and thought his style would add greatly to Apparition’s melodic feel. Kull was then a further interesting addition to Apparition in late-2014 which took us in a new direction musically. As Kull’s main instrument is the guitar and we already had 2 guitarists at that point, he originally joined to focus on song writing and to sequence and compose the orchestration and piano across the new album. In 2015 when Nick stepped back from the live line-up, Kull was the natural replacement to complete the line-up having already written and tracked a great deal of new material with the band, including guitar parts. Kull’s energy, atmosphere and depth, alongside Fiona’s versatility, ambience, harmony and emotive vocals coupled with Amy’s tight riffs, amazing technical skill and talent for passionate solos, David’s death metal background and passion for bouncy melodic influences and Ash’s energic thrash metal background, power and quick footedness, has provided a variety of ideas and styles to draw on. Amy is currently further developing her knowledge of composition, piano and harmony and has more to contribute to the writing process in future work and Ash is also developing material through his solo composition work and has ideas to contribute too, including vocal ideas, piano and violin, and we are keen to add that a male-female vocal dynamic in the future. So, currently, we are in a stage where we have elements of the old Apparition ‘feel’ that David is very instrumental too, which will always provide an underpinning element to what we do which can certainly be heard throughout The Awakening, but we think that the album has been a great springboard for us, and with it being our first release all together, we have learned a lot about each other’s capabilities and untapped potential that can be drawn on in the future as we build and develop the Apparition ‘sound’. Overall, our sound is still evolving and as we all contribute and pool our ideas we will see more evolution as we move forward.

Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
-Conveying a message within a song is important to us as band. The main lyrics on The Awakening are written by Fiona and Kull, with contributions from David, who has written a lot of lyrics in the past on earlier Apparition albums. Some past songs have had cultural and historical narratives based on major worldwide events, politics and war, and others have dealt with murder, betrayal, forbidden love, vengeance and hope. On the new album, many songs deal with loss, love, rebirth, hope and new beginnings. The title of ‘The Awakening’ was not just chosen because Apparition had a new awakening of sorts with a new line-up, but also because the narratives in most songs lean towards a sense of realization; a new vision for the future and hope for better horizons. Yet some songs do offer a sense of holding on to the past. For us, this was important as it reflects where we are now as a band – wanting to savour our roots but also develop and grow musically through new ideas and become more than we were before. But, overall, an important factor for us as lyricists is the understanding that storytelling is an interpretive process whereby the reader, or rather ‘listener’ in this case, can conjure up a sense of the narrative for themselves as they construct meaning through the words and relate it to their past experiences, thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. But the music is instrumental to the feel of this story and lyrics and music must complement each other and take the listener on a journey together. So, in that sense we like to create the space for imagination within the lyrics to allow the process of interpretation develop for our listeners as they move through the emotive essence that underpins each song. It is truly fantastic when a fan talks to us about the meaning of our songs or asks more about the meaning behind the words. For us as song-writers, it is always a great moment to receive interest in the different aspects that makes up the song writing process as a whole.

How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
-The album cover has a special place in the entire production process for the band as it symbolises the essence of the album in the way that that encapsulates the meaning of the album for us, and, we hope, for the listener too. It seems that the volume of bands, and album releases, increases year on year in the age of the digital world so it helps to try to create something that stands out and represents the identity of the band. Often with downloads, the album cover will feature quite prominently and it is part of the whole promotion aspect of a new release to get the album known and circulated through streaming and download sites, webzines, digital radio and social media platforms. We think it helps to try to reflect the essence of the music with an imaginative ‘eye-catching’ visual representation, especially in terms of the album cover which often may be the first aspect of a band that a person is exposed to. For us, the cover of The Awakening was constructed with the sense of ‘realisation’ in mind based around seeing things from multiple perspectives and moving beyond the here and now. The idea for us began with an iris at the centre of this vision, and we talked about a mixture of colours that reflect each members’ eye colour to represent our unique perspectives and contributions, but in a way that combines us to become more than the sum of our individual parts, and so we mixed that idea into a cosmic scene to give that sense of reflection and ‘new horizons’ beyond the here and now. Videos too are growing in popularity as an overall first experience of a band and as they are now more accessible online than ever before, and in some respects becoming an increasingly realistic production goal for bands and standards are certainly rising in terms of quality and production ‘polish’. We haven’t produced a video yet for the album but have made a couple of animated ‘lyric videos’ that try to reflect the story of the song, as well as an album sampler. David certainly has some interesting narratives for a potential official band video and Kull has a lot of creative ideas so this is something that will likely follow in time.

Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve?
-Europe has seen such a great evolution and diversity of metal genres and a huge increase in the volume of bands on the scene trying to break through. But to ‘break big’ can mean different things to different bands; for many it is enough to be making music, playing shows and growing the fan base, and that certainly takes time to develop, but for others ‘breaking big’ might mean playing at top festivals, supporting huge names and selling a great deal of records. For us, we focus on enjoying making new music and seeing long-time fans enjoy what we do and new fans discover the band and want to hear more. Overall, success for us is that sense of holistic achievement, with a big part of that in more recent times about achieving the release of the new album which was long in the making. Staying active is quite important for a band that wants to ‘break big’ but you need a lot of commitment and support behind you to make it achievable and it takes a lot of sacrifice. Touring is very helpful in gaining exposure but is especially tough for new bands due to the financial expenses and time commitment involved in touring, especially given the rise of the ‘pay to play’ culture for support slots that bands ‘bid’ for. Couple this with what is involved in making an album, and all the assets that go along with it, a band requires a vast amount of energy, a clear strategy and realistic plans as well as time, energy, financing, commitment and focus, all of which are vital and are very much a group effort. Choices must be made about the sorts of things that a band can engage in and how active they can be at certain times so it needs to be quite well planned to retain a sense of stability and progression in the rather turbulent music industry. If a band wants to grow, every member must understand what ‘the big picture’ and ‘breaking big’ means for them as a band and how growth works in the overall industry, especially in terms of the genre(s) they are within or across. A band needs a vision of how it wants to position itself year on year to grow and make decisions early on to achieve this, but it really is a group effort even if someone else is leading that – be that a band leader, manager or management company – and you need to be determined and motivated to achieve this. It is vital that bands get together and decide on their vision then plan a strategy that is realistic – and review it often – if they really want to ‘break big’ in whatever way that is meaningful to them. The metal world, with all of its interesting subgenres and cross-overs, is certainly a very competitive and noisy world to navigate, but with great music to share, an interesting identity, great motivation and communication, and with a clear strategy and continually making connections, growing the fanbase becomes more realistic for any band. You have to keep listening and learning about the world you are within and be both proactive and responsive to peak and sustain interest.

Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
-The online world has indeed exploded in terms of the digital platforms to stream and download music and we have seen a lot of change during our time, so this is a very interesting question and it is certainly a great learning curve for Apparition as the digital world is new territory for us. Across the band, we have experience stretching as far back as 30 years when the metal world was a very different place and the internet and social media did not exist; it was all gigs, radio, record shops and print magazines. But being active and persistent in gaining exposure is not so different now than it was back then when we were sending out physical demo tapes (or later CDs) and press packs to music magazines, venues, labels and radio stations hoping to peak interest and gain a mention or a gig. In a way, uploading and sharing material online in various locations to gain exposure is not so dissimilar in principle to what we were doing in the past, except that there is obviously much more direct access now to the listeners than ever before; the hard part is standing out in the volume of what is out there and knowing how and where to direct yourself to stand out. The bar certainly seems higher these days, and not just in terms of song writing and performance expectations, but also in terms of the production quality of music and visual assets. Working hard to develop a good following as a band requires a lot of hard work in terms of producing music and defining your identity, but it also requires a strong online presence across digital platforms and a lot of marketing and promotion, including the use of social media platforms, webzine and fanzines, in addition to having an interesting website and hitting all the right spaces to showcase your music. Importantly, those in the music business that work hard to promote and expose new music through their reviews, articles and radio presence are still a vital conduit of support that every band needs to help them to stand out and be noticed. So, the premise is the same as it always has been: network and put your music out there in every which way you can. That is the easy part nowadays if you have the motivation as a band to do it as the access is wide-open, but that alone is not enough because standing out in such vast competition is the hard work and requires constant work and it is hard to gain exposure if you are not actively making connections and working with those who can help you to do that by moving beyond your personal own network. It’s the support from fans, reviewers and the media which make a difference; when people enjoy your music they are likely to talk about it and share it, and we are always immensely grateful when this happens; for us, that is a very powerful aspect as people will vote with their feet (or these days a ‘like’, ‘share’ or similar), so having that support is extremely important, and we are very thankful for everyone, from fellow musicians, followers, fans, reviewers, the label, press, radio and the wider media, and all their networks, who have all taken the time to listen to us and share what we do. Overall, we are learning that the digital online world is perhaps not that ‘blind’ to all but the music as we feel that the combined foundation of solid and interesting song writing, along with our identity as a band and our persistent activity, presence and networking is what will help our music to stand out.

What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
-We do not really have a ‘local’ scene as we are all scattered around different areas of the UK. London often appears to have the most going on in terms of metal bands, especially looking at local bands and visiting bands touring the UK, and in terms of the range and volume of more local bands playing. Manchester and Birmingham, where most of our past and present experience sits, appear to be seeing more live metal events and ‘showcase’ events for new bands at a more local level than perhaps in the last decade. This is great as it shows more support for local bands to create and build a platform and gain a following that may help to translate nationally. Making connections with other bands from other cities is helpful as you can gig-share and support each other in gaining exposure to new crowds outside of your own local fanbase. With a lot of hard work, commitment and travel, this can translate into a more national interest. So, networking with other bands and helping each other to break out beyond a local scene is very important for growth as well as playing at local metal festivals up and down the country where people are interested in hearing something new and there are several such small events across the UK which are helpful to play at. However, it would be good to see more national platforms available and more local venues with dedicated nights as many bands must travel outside of their local areas to gain exposure as there is no ‘local scene’ to speak of where they are from. Social media can help build a platform but it is harder to translate that ‘in-the-flesh-performance’ to the online world, and it can be harder to break through nationally without travelling and making those connections, so that is where social media can help. But the work of venues and local promoters is very important in making these events happen and sustaining them. There are a lot of hardworking and passionate promoters out there and many great bands who play with such passion at supportive venues, working hard with promoters to keep live metal a sustainable feature, and often if a metal fan finds a local show, they will come away having had a great night, heard some great music and met some fantastic people. UK and European metal festivals can also be very helpful platforms for a band to make international connections and partner with other bands from different countries to make touring abroad more of a reality. Ten years ago in 2007, David, with the help of Fiona and the former drummer of Apparition, put together ‘The Dames of Darkness Festival’ based in the UK Midlands as back then it was very hard to get a national audience for emerging and developing metal bands. Social media was not as common as a tool to promote shows as it is now, so you were more reliant on local posters, radio and promoters (if there was one), as well as the venue itself promoting the show. So, Apparition pulled a few bands together to pool the resources, contacts and fanbase and convinced a venue to give us a Saturday based on the strength of several local bands playing all day together, as well as gaining some sponsorship from local radio. It took a lot of leg work from the bands involved and huge support from our fans and networks to make it work but it did, and the Dames of Darkness Festival was born in 2007 and has been running for 10 years so far. It has done very well over the years but ideally, we want to see more local and national platforms that showcase the great diversity of genres across the UK that help emerging metal talent to grow more nationally.

Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the stone age. How accepted is metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
-As a band over time, we have found that there is a different appreciation of metal in different areas of the UK, with a bit more happening in certain places, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, which are locations that many visiting acts from Europe or the US tend to prioritise when they tour. However, there is local activity in various cities and towns with some great bands spread across England, Scotland and Wales. However, we all certainly wish that Metal was more like ‘mother’s milk’ across the UK. The 70s was such an important and progressive decade for metal music, but the general ‘popular’ acceptance of metal across the UK is still not what you would call ‘mainstream’ like it is in Finland or some other European countries and is still lacking in representation across popular critic polls; for example, only one British metal band featured in Metal Hammers list of the greatest albums of the 21st Century in 2016, despite metal being commonly understood as ‘born’ out of the UK. In 2015 Spotify revealed their most loyal music listeners to be metalheads, yet popular mainstream acceptance still isn’t that common for metal bands in the UK. From more personal experience, ‘mainstream’ pop culture and general social attitudes in the UK towards metal music can sometimes appear stuck in the past due to that underappreciation of the variety that metal offers by way of sub-genres and styles, which often appears as a barrier to its progression as a more prominent live scene across the UK, as well as socially constructed stereotypical views of metal bands and musicians which can make some genres less accessible and popular than others – and that is before you attempt to divide up the many different genres within metal – but despite that, there are some great ‘pockets’ of metal culture across the UK. Although live metal is not a ‘huge’ scene in the UK a lot of people would recognise the essence of what metal encapsulates even if there understanding is a bit limited. Overall, wider attitudes towards metal across the UK are changing with increased variety in the sorts of bands and musicians that are performing and the events that are showcasing them. Part of this has been due to the creation of specific events and platforms to widen access to the metal world for those within it or those new to it, such as genre specific festivals and female-fronted band platforms like The Dames of Darkness Festival hosted by Apparition or the original ‘Femme Fatales’ stage at Bloodstock 2004 which Fiona performed at with her first band. Events like these have been historically important, particularly for female metal musicians who have often struggled to gain access to the very male-dominated metal world, often having to work harder to build credibility as a musician within it. We appreciate that platforms like this are still very necessary across some parts of the globe, but are becoming less so in other places as attitudes are changing and diversity in the ranks of metal bands and across festival line-ups is increasing, not just in terms of gender, but also in terms of culture, race, ethnicity and background, albeit more slowly in some places than others. Generally speaking, from our experiences across the UK, metal-folk are an accepting and welcoming community and there is increasing space for different kinds of metal bands to emerge and develop and we hope we will see attitudes towards (and within) the metal world continue to grow more holistically and inclusively over time.

What does the future hold for you?
-We are looking forward to growing our fanbase through the launch of the new Album – The Awakening –
on 2nd February 2018, and in March in Japan. The launch will expose us more officially in the US, and in Japan for the first time too, so we are looking forward to breaking into new countries and gaining new fans. We hope to schedule a launch show in mid-2018, likely to be held in the UK, and hope to perform at a few of the smaller European festivals beyond that, and perhaps some other shows alongside other bands across Europe we have developed friendships with over the years. We are just letting it roll really and focusing on reaction to the new material and following the inspiration that comes from that. There is material already in the making for further down the line, but for now we hope to just enjoy the success of the new album, which was hard work in the making, but was a fantastic experience for all of us.

APPARITION is a band that you should check out if you like your metal on the symphonic side. Anders Ekdahl ©2018

Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
-The original intention behind Apparition was to create interesting, well-received music and to enjoy playing with like-minded people. The Apparition of today is still based on that same premise. Back in 1997 David Homer (bassist) first visualised a studio project called ‘The Pain Lives On’ when he was part of death metal band ‘Asphyxiator’, and together with some of his fellow members, by 2004, this project developed into a more active metal band – Apparition – after a full line-up was established. Apparition today certainly embodies the original essence of David’s 1997 project and there have been lots of adventures over the years, with some line-up changes and fantastic guest contributors, but the idea is still to make melodic metal and get it out there, and most of all to take pride and pleasure in doing so. There was never a distinct vision beyond that, or a set goal or ambition so the work has remained fluid over the years and follows the passion and enthusiasm of those involved. David is a key driving force in that, with Fiona Creaby (vocalist) becoming more involved over the years in the organisation and identity of the band, particularly since re-joining the band in 2014 after 5 years away, the idea is still to keep enjoying what we do and we take a relaxed view to live work and are enjoying experimenting with new material. Overall, we feel that the band is doing well and we are proud of everything that has been achieved to date, especially the new album – The Awakening – due for release 02/02/18 – and we are thankful to everyone that has taken part in the Apparition ‘evolution’ over the years.

How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
-We are very pleased with The Awakening and how the the composition of each song developed from initial conception. Some songs were longer in the making than others as some were later additions and didn’t go through as much development in the writing process, but they were all certainly bigger and better than we had expected. With the addition of Paul ‘Kull’ Culley in late-2014 as we began to write the album, this brought a depth to the music that compliments both David’s and Fiona’s writing. With Amy Lewis on guitar and Ashley Guest (also of Benediction and Besieged) on drums joining the line-up in 2014, this gave us an even wider mix of influences, talents, ideas and sounds to work with. We feel this album is more atmospheric and more varied than earlier albums but still has that sense of melodic energic passion that David’s writing has always carried. There is not much we would change about the composition and some songs certainly exceeded the initial vision we had for them. From finishing the writing process all the way to announcing the release, it did take more time than we envisioned: 2 years in all. When we recorded at Hertz Studio (Poland) in late 2015 it was great to be able to dedicate a period of time solely to tracking the album. Due to time constraints, mixing could not start until 2016, and it took place in phases as Fiona travelled over to Hertz, sometimes with Kull, to work on the mix with the Wieslawski Brothers. Although mastering was complete by late Summer 2016, we knew it would take a little time to find a label and negotiate a deal, especially given the other commitments we all had at the time, and we also needed to produce all the other assets that go along with making an album – artwork, photos, website, videos – which we did not set about making until 2017. Fiona is also the vocalist with Greek metal band Fallen Arise and had touring commitments in 2016 and 2017 as well as her doctorate to complete so we knew that we needed about a year before we would be ready to set and announce the release date. But this actually worked well and gave us the time to find the right label and were very pleased to sign with WormholeDeath Records in September 2017 for the worldwide physical and digital distribution of the album with a promotion campaign for the release. Overall, we are really thrilled with The Awakening – musically, visually and creatively – and there are still moments we each put it on and step back and say ‘yep, we all did a great job’ and we are all very proud of that, and of each other.

Do you feel that you by now has found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it ?*
-We have gone through a great evolution since the first vision of what would become Apparition in 1997 by David, especially over the last few years. When Fiona re-joined in 2014, only David remained as an original member from the 2004 line-up. In 2014, still as a 5-piece line-up, we moved to a dual-guitarist line-up when Ash and Amy joined and Fiona returned to the band, alongside David and the then current guitarist Nick Whitmore in 2014. This was after David’s earlier decision not to continue with a live keyboard player and instead programme the sequencing to enhance our live and studio work. This idea came after several shows without a keyboardist had presented the opportunity to trial this model but at that point featured only Nick on guitars and some basic sequencing from studio recordings. It was quickly evident to David that Apparition needed something more and so a dual guitar line-up and skilled programming for piano and orchestration was felt the best way to develop a fuller sound and this is when David recruited Amy after seeing her play with her first band in Birmingham and was extremely impressed with her talent. David also wanted to recruit a permanent drummer who embodied an energic and solid feel and approached Ashley after hearing about his work, who has always been formally rooted in thrash metal, and thought his style would add greatly to Apparition’s melodic feel. Kull was then a further interesting addition to Apparition in late-2014 which took us in a new direction musically. As Kull’s main instrument is the guitar and we already had 2 guitarists at that point, he originally joined to focus on song writing and to sequence and compose the orchestration and piano across the new album. In 2015 when Nick stepped back from the live line-up, Kull was the natural replacement to complete the line-up having already written and tracked a great deal of new material with the band, including guitar parts. Kull’s energy, atmosphere and depth, alongside Fiona’s versatility, ambience, harmony and emotive vocals coupled with Amy’s tight riffs, amazing technical skill and talent for passionate solos, David’s death metal background and passion for bouncy melodic influences and Ash’s energic thrash metal background, power and quick footedness, has provided a variety of ideas and styles to draw on. Amy is currently further developing her knowledge of composition, piano and harmony and has more to contribute to the writing process in future work and Ash is also developing material through his solo composition work and has ideas to contribute too, including vocal ideas, piano and violin, and we are keen to add that a male-female vocal dynamic in the future. So, currently, we are in a stage where we have elements of the old Apparition ‘feel’ that David is very instrumental too, which will always provide an underpinning element to what we do which can certainly be heard throughout The Awakening, but we think that the album has been a great springboard for us, and with it being our first release all together, we have learned a lot about each other’s capabilities and untapped potential that can be drawn on in the future as we build and develop the Apparition ‘sound’. Overall, our sound is still evolving and as we all contribute and pool our ideas we will see more evolution as we move forward.

Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
-Conveying a message within a song is important to us as band. The main lyrics on The Awakening are written by Fiona and Kull, with contributions from David, who has written a lot of lyrics in the past on earlier Apparition albums. Some past songs have had cultural and historical narratives based on major worldwide events, politics and war, and others have dealt with murder, betrayal, forbidden love, vengeance and hope. On the new album, many songs deal with loss, love, rebirth, hope and new beginnings. The title of ‘The Awakening’ was not just chosen because Apparition had a new awakening of sorts with a new line-up, but also because the narratives in most songs lean towards a sense of realization; a new vision for the future and hope for better horizons. Yet some songs do offer a sense of holding on to the past. For us, this was important as it reflects where we are now as a band – wanting to savour our roots but also develop and grow musically through new ideas and become more than we were before. But, overall, an important factor for us as lyricists is the understanding that storytelling is an interpretive process whereby the reader, or rather ‘listener’ in this case, can conjure up a sense of the narrative for themselves as they construct meaning through the words and relate it to their past experiences, thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. But the music is instrumental to the feel of this story and lyrics and music must complement each other and take the listener on a journey together. So, in that sense we like to create the space for imagination within the lyrics to allow the process of interpretation develop for our listeners as they move through the emotive essence that underpins each song. It is truly fantastic when a fan talks to us about the meaning of our songs or asks more about the meaning behind the words. For us as song-writers, it is always a great moment to receive interest in the different aspects that makes up the song writing process as a whole.

How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
-The album cover has a special place in the entire production process for the band as it symbolises the essence of the album in the way that that encapsulates the meaning of the album for us, and, we hope, for the listener too. It seems that the volume of bands, and album releases, increases year on year in the age of the digital world so it helps to try to create something that stands out and represents the identity of the band. Often with downloads, the album cover will feature quite prominently and it is part of the whole promotion aspect of a new release to get the album known and circulated through streaming and download sites, webzines, digital radio and social media platforms. We think it helps to try to reflect the essence of the music with an imaginative ‘eye-catching’ visual representation, especially in terms of the album cover which often may be the first aspect of a band that a person is exposed to. For us, the cover of The Awakening was constructed with the sense of ‘realisation’ in mind based around seeing things from multiple perspectives and moving beyond the here and now. The idea for us began with an iris at the centre of this vision, and we talked about a mixture of colours that reflect each members’ eye colour to represent our unique perspectives and contributions, but in a way that combines us to become more than the sum of our individual parts, and so we mixed that idea into a cosmic scene to give that sense of reflection and ‘new horizons’ beyond the here and now. Videos too are growing in popularity as an overall first experience of a band and as they are now more accessible online than ever before, and in some respects becoming an increasingly realistic production goal for bands and standards are certainly rising in terms of quality and production ‘polish’. We haven’t produced a video yet for the album but have made a couple of animated ‘lyric videos’ that try to reflect the story of the song, as well as an album sampler. David certainly has some interesting narratives for a potential official band video and Kull has a lot of creative ideas so this is something that will likely follow in time.

Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve?
-Europe has seen such a great evolution and diversity of metal genres and a huge increase in the volume of bands on the scene trying to break through. But to ‘break big’ can mean different things to different bands; for many it is enough to be making music, playing shows and growing the fan base, and that certainly takes time to develop, but for others ‘breaking big’ might mean playing at top festivals, supporting huge names and selling a great deal of records. For us, we focus on enjoying making new music and seeing long-time fans enjoy what we do and new fans discover the band and want to hear more. Overall, success for us is that sense of holistic achievement, with a big part of that in more recent times about achieving the release of the new album which was long in the making. Staying active is quite important for a band that wants to ‘break big’ but you need a lot of commitment and support behind you to make it achievable and it takes a lot of sacrifice. Touring is very helpful in gaining exposure but is especially tough for new bands due to the financial expenses and time commitment involved in touring, especially given the rise of the ‘pay to play’ culture for support slots that bands ‘bid’ for. Couple this with what is involved in making an album, and all the assets that go along with it, a band requires a vast amount of energy, a clear strategy and realistic plans as well as time, energy, financing, commitment and focus, all of which are vital and are very much a group effort. Choices must be made about the sorts of things that a band can engage in and how active they can be at certain times so it needs to be quite well planned to retain a sense of stability and progression in the rather turbulent music industry. If a band wants to grow, every member must understand what ‘the big picture’ and ‘breaking big’ means for them as a band and how growth works in the overall industry, especially in terms of the genre(s) they are within or across. A band needs a vision of how it wants to position itself year on year to grow and make decisions early on to achieve this, but it really is a group effort even if someone else is leading that – be that a band leader, manager or management company – and you need to be determined and motivated to achieve this. It is vital that bands get together and decide on their vision then plan a strategy that is realistic – and review it often – if they really want to ‘break big’ in whatever way that is meaningful to them. The metal world, with all of its interesting subgenres and cross-overs, is certainly a very competitive and noisy world to navigate, but with great music to share, an interesting identity, great motivation and communication, and with a clear strategy and continually making connections, growing the fanbase becomes more realistic for any band. You have to keep listening and learning about the world you are within and be both proactive and responsive to peak and sustain interest.

Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
-The online world has indeed exploded in terms of the digital platforms to stream and download music and we have seen a lot of change during our time, so this is a very interesting question and it is certainly a great learning curve for Apparition as the digital world is new territory for us. Across the band, we have experience stretching as far back as 30 years when the metal world was a very different place and the internet and social media did not exist; it was all gigs, radio, record shops and print magazines. But being active and persistent in gaining exposure is not so different now than it was back then when we were sending out physical demo tapes (or later CDs) and press packs to music magazines, venues, labels and radio stations hoping to peak interest and gain a mention or a gig. In a way, uploading and sharing material online in various locations to gain exposure is not so dissimilar in principle to what we were doing in the past, except that there is obviously much more direct access now to the listeners than ever before; the hard part is standing out in the volume of what is out there and knowing how and where to direct yourself to stand out. The bar certainly seems higher these days, and not just in terms of song writing and performance expectations, but also in terms of the production quality of music and visual assets. Working hard to develop a good following as a band requires a lot of hard work in terms of producing music and defining your identity, but it also requires a strong online presence across digital platforms and a lot of marketing and promotion, including the use of social media platforms, webzine and fanzines, in addition to having an interesting website and hitting all the right spaces to showcase your music. Importantly, those in the music business that work hard to promote and expose new music through their reviews, articles and radio presence are still a vital conduit of support that every band needs to help them to stand out and be noticed. So, the premise is the same as it always has been: network and put your music out there in every which way you can. That is the easy part nowadays if you have the motivation as a band to do it as the access is wide-open, but that alone is not enough because standing out in such vast competition is the hard work and requires constant work and it is hard to gain exposure if you are not actively making connections and working with those who can help you to do that by moving beyond your personal own network. It’s the support from fans, reviewers and the media which make a difference; when people enjoy your music they are likely to talk about it and share it, and we are always immensely grateful when this happens; for us, that is a very powerful aspect as people will vote with their feet (or these days a ‘like’, ‘share’ or similar), so having that support is extremely important, and we are very thankful for everyone, from fellow musicians, followers, fans, reviewers, the label, press, radio and the wider media, and all their networks, who have all taken the time to listen to us and share what we do. Overall, we are learning that the digital online world is perhaps not that ‘blind’ to all but the music as we feel that the combined foundation of solid and interesting song writing, along with our identity as a band and our persistent activity, presence and networking is what will help our music to stand out.

What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
-We do not really have a ‘local’ scene as we are all scattered around different areas of the UK. London often appears to have the most going on in terms of metal bands, especially looking at local bands and visiting bands touring the UK, and in terms of the range and volume of more local bands playing. Manchester and Birmingham, where most of our past and present experience sits, appear to be seeing more live metal events and ‘showcase’ events for new bands at a more local level than perhaps in the last decade. This is great as it shows more support for local bands to create and build a platform and gain a following that may help to translate nationally. Making connections with other bands from other cities is helpful as you can gig-share and support each other in gaining exposure to new crowds outside of your own local fanbase. With a lot of hard work, commitment and travel, this can translate into a more national interest. So, networking with other bands and helping each other to break out beyond a local scene is very important for growth as well as playing at local metal festivals up and down the country where people are interested in hearing something new and there are several such small events across the UK which are helpful to play at. However, it would be good to see more national platforms available and more local venues with dedicated nights as many bands must travel outside of their local areas to gain exposure as there is no ‘local scene’ to speak of where they are from. Social media can help build a platform but it is harder to translate that ‘in-the-flesh-performance’ to the online world, and it can be harder to break through nationally without travelling and making those connections, so that is where social media can help. But the work of venues and local promoters is very important in making these events happen and sustaining them. There are a lot of hardworking and passionate promoters out there and many great bands who play with such passion at supportive venues, working hard with promoters to keep live metal a sustainable feature, and often if a metal fan finds a local show, they will come away having had a great night, heard some great music and met some fantastic people. UK and European metal festivals can also be very helpful platforms for a band to make international connections and partner with other bands from different countries to make touring abroad more of a reality. Ten years ago in 2007, David, with the help of Fiona and the former drummer of Apparition, put together ‘The Dames of Darkness Festival’ based in the UK Midlands as back then it was very hard to get a national audience for emerging and developing metal bands. Social media was not as common as a tool to promote shows as it is now, so you were more reliant on local posters, radio and promoters (if there was one), as well as the venue itself promoting the show. So, Apparition pulled a few bands together to pool the resources, contacts and fanbase and convinced a venue to give us a Saturday based on the strength of several local bands playing all day together, as well as gaining some sponsorship from local radio. It took a lot of leg work from the bands involved and huge support from our fans and networks to make it work but it did, and the Dames of Darkness Festival was born in 2007 and has been running for 10 years so far. It has done very well over the years but ideally, we want to see more local and national platforms that showcase the great diversity of genres across the UK that help emerging metal talent to grow more nationally.

Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the stone age. How accepted is metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
-As a band over time, we have found that there is a different appreciation of metal in different areas of the UK, with a bit more happening in certain places, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, which are locations that many visiting acts from Europe or the US tend to prioritise when they tour. However, there is local activity in various cities and towns with some great bands spread across England, Scotland and Wales. However, we all certainly wish that Metal was more like ‘mother’s milk’ across the UK. The 70s was such an important and progressive decade for metal music, but the general ‘popular’ acceptance of metal across the UK is still not what you would call ‘mainstream’ like it is in Finland or some other European countries and is still lacking in representation across popular critic polls; for example, only one British metal band featured in Metal Hammers list of the greatest albums of the 21st Century in 2016, despite metal being commonly understood as ‘born’ out of the UK. In 2015 Spotify revealed their most loyal music listeners to be metalheads, yet popular mainstream acceptance still isn’t that common for metal bands in the UK. From more personal experience, ‘mainstream’ pop culture and general social attitudes in the UK towards metal music can sometimes appear stuck in the past due to that underappreciation of the variety that metal offers by way of sub-genres and styles, which often appears as a barrier to its progression as a more prominent live scene across the UK, as well as socially constructed stereotypical views of metal bands and musicians which can make some genres less accessible and popular than others – and that is before you attempt to divide up the many different genres within metal – but despite that, there are some great ‘pockets’ of metal culture across the UK. Although live metal is not a ‘huge’ scene in the UK a lot of people would recognise the essence of what metal encapsulates even if there understanding is a bit limited. Overall, wider attitudes towards metal across the UK are changing with increased variety in the sorts of bands and musicians that are performing and the events that are showcasing them. Part of this has been due to the creation of specific events and platforms to widen access to the metal world for those within it or those new to it, such as genre specific festivals and female-fronted band platforms like The Dames of Darkness Festival hosted by Apparition or the original ‘Femme Fatales’ stage at Bloodstock 2004 which Fiona performed at with her first band. Events like these have been historically important, particularly for female metal musicians who have often struggled to gain access to the very male-dominated metal world, often having to work harder to build credibility as a musician within it. We appreciate that platforms like this are still very necessary across some parts of the globe, but are becoming less so in other places as attitudes are changing and diversity in the ranks of metal bands and across festival line-ups is increasing, not just in terms of gender, but also in terms of culture, race, ethnicity and background, albeit more slowly in some places than others. Generally speaking, from our experiences across the UK, metal-folk are an accepting and welcoming community and there is increasing space for different kinds of metal bands to emerge and develop and we hope we will see attitudes towards (and within) the metal world continue to grow more holistically and inclusively over time.

What does the future hold for you?
-We are looking forward to growing our fanbase through the launch of the new Album – The Awakening –
on 2nd February 2018, and in March in Japan. The launch will expose us more officially in the US, and in Japan for the first time too, so we are looking forward to breaking into new countries and gaining new fans. We hope to schedule a launch show in mid-2018, likely to be held in the UK, and hope to perform at a few of the smaller European festivals beyond that, and perhaps some other shows alongside other bands across Europe we have developed friendships with over the years. We are just letting it roll really and focusing on reaction to the new material and following the inspiration that comes from that. There is material already in the making for further down the line, but for now we hope to just enjoy the success of the new album, which was hard work in the making, but was a fantastic experience for all of us.

APPARITION is a band that you should check out if you like your metal on the symphonic side. Anders Ekdahl ©2018

Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
-The original intention behind Apparition was to create interesting, well-received music and to enjoy playing with like-minded people. The Apparition of today is still based on that same premise. Back in 1997 David Homer (bassist) first visualised a studio project called ‘The Pain Lives On’ when he was part of death metal band ‘Asphyxiator’, and together with some of his fellow members, by 2004, this project developed into a more active metal band – Apparition – after a full line-up was established. Apparition today certainly embodies the original essence of David’s 1997 project and there have been lots of adventures over the years, with some line-up changes and fantastic guest contributors, but the idea is still to make melodic metal and get it out there, and most of all to take pride and pleasure in doing so. There was never a distinct vision beyond that, or a set goal or ambition so the work has remained fluid over the years and follows the passion and enthusiasm of those involved. David is a key driving force in that, with Fiona Creaby (vocalist) becoming more involved over the years in the organisation and identity of the band, particularly since re-joining the band in 2014 after 5 years away, the idea is still to keep enjoying what we do and we take a relaxed view to live work and are enjoying experimenting with new material. Overall, we feel that the band is doing well and we are proud of everything that has been achieved to date, especially the new album – The Awakening – due for release 02/02/18 – and we are thankful to everyone that has taken part in the Apparition ‘evolution’ over the years.

How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
-We are very pleased with The Awakening and how the the composition of each song developed from initial conception. Some songs were longer in the making than others as some were later additions and didn’t go through as much development in the writing process, but they were all certainly bigger and better than we had expected. With the addition of Paul ‘Kull’ Culley in late-2014 as we began to write the album, this brought a depth to the music that compliments both David’s and Fiona’s writing. With Amy Lewis on guitar and Ashley Guest (also of Benediction and Besieged) on drums joining the line-up in 2014, this gave us an even wider mix of influences, talents, ideas and sounds to work with. We feel this album is more atmospheric and more varied than earlier albums but still has that sense of melodic energic passion that David’s writing has always carried. There is not much we would change about the composition and some songs certainly exceeded the initial vision we had for them. From finishing the writing process all the way to announcing the release, it did take more time than we envisioned: 2 years in all. When we recorded at Hertz Studio (Poland) in late 2015 it was great to be able to dedicate a period of time solely to tracking the album. Due to time constraints, mixing could not start until 2016, and it took place in phases as Fiona travelled over to Hertz, sometimes with Kull, to work on the mix with the Wieslawski Brothers. Although mastering was complete by late Summer 2016, we knew it would take a little time to find a label and negotiate a deal, especially given the other commitments we all had at the time, and we also needed to produce all the other assets that go along with making an album – artwork, photos, website, videos – which we did not set about making until 2017. Fiona is also the vocalist with Greek metal band Fallen Arise and had touring commitments in 2016 and 2017 as well as her doctorate to complete so we knew that we needed about a year before we would be ready to set and announce the release date. But this actually worked well and gave us the time to find the right label and were very pleased to sign with WormholeDeath Records in September 2017 for the worldwide physical and digital distribution of the album with a promotion campaign for the release. Overall, we are really thrilled with The Awakening – musically, visually and creatively – and there are still moments we each put it on and step back and say ‘yep, we all did a great job’ and we are all very proud of that, and of each other.

Do you feel that you by now has found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it ?*
-We have gone through a great evolution since the first vision of what would become Apparition in 1997 by David, especially over the last few years. When Fiona re-joined in 2014, only David remained as an original member from the 2004 line-up. In 2014, still as a 5-piece line-up, we moved to a dual-guitarist line-up when Ash and Amy joined and Fiona returned to the band, alongside David and the then current guitarist Nick Whitmore in 2014. This was after David’s earlier decision not to continue with a live keyboard player and instead programme the sequencing to enhance our live and studio work. This idea came after several shows without a keyboardist had presented the opportunity to trial this model but at that point featured only Nick on guitars and some basic sequencing from studio recordings. It was quickly evident to David that Apparition needed something more and so a dual guitar line-up and skilled programming for piano and orchestration was felt the best way to develop a fuller sound and this is when David recruited Amy after seeing her play with her first band in Birmingham and was extremely impressed with her talent. David also wanted to recruit a permanent drummer who embodied an energic and solid feel and approached Ashley after hearing about his work, who has always been formally rooted in thrash metal, and thought his style would add greatly to Apparition’s melodic feel. Kull was then a further interesting addition to Apparition in late-2014 which took us in a new direction musically. As Kull’s main instrument is the guitar and we already had 2 guitarists at that point, he originally joined to focus on song writing and to sequence and compose the orchestration and piano across the new album. In 2015 when Nick stepped back from the live line-up, Kull was the natural replacement to complete the line-up having already written and tracked a great deal of new material with the band, including guitar parts. Kull’s energy, atmosphere and depth, alongside Fiona’s versatility, ambience, harmony and emotive vocals coupled with Amy’s tight riffs, amazing technical skill and talent for passionate solos, David’s death metal background and passion for bouncy melodic influences and Ash’s energic thrash metal background, power and quick footedness, has provided a variety of ideas and styles to draw on. Amy is currently further developing her knowledge of composition, piano and harmony and has more to contribute to the writing process in future work and Ash is also developing material through his solo composition work and has ideas to contribute too, including vocal ideas, piano and violin, and we are keen to add that a male-female vocal dynamic in the future. So, currently, we are in a stage where we have elements of the old Apparition ‘feel’ that David is very instrumental too, which will always provide an underpinning element to what we do which can certainly be heard throughout The Awakening, but we think that the album has been a great springboard for us, and with it being our first release all together, we have learned a lot about each other’s capabilities and untapped potential that can be drawn on in the future as we build and develop the Apparition ‘sound’. Overall, our sound is still evolving and as we all contribute and pool our ideas we will see more evolution as we move forward.

Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
-Conveying a message within a song is important to us as band. The main lyrics on The Awakening are written by Fiona and Kull, with contributions from David, who has written a lot of lyrics in the past on earlier Apparition albums. Some past songs have had cultural and historical narratives based on major worldwide events, politics and war, and others have dealt with murder, betrayal, forbidden love, vengeance and hope. On the new album, many songs deal with loss, love, rebirth, hope and new beginnings. The title of ‘The Awakening’ was not just chosen because Apparition had a new awakening of sorts with a new line-up, but also because the narratives in most songs lean towards a sense of realization; a new vision for the future and hope for better horizons. Yet some songs do offer a sense of holding on to the past. For us, this was important as it reflects where we are now as a band – wanting to savour our roots but also develop and grow musically through new ideas and become more than we were before. But, overall, an important factor for us as lyricists is the understanding that storytelling is an interpretive process whereby the reader, or rather ‘listener’ in this case, can conjure up a sense of the narrative for themselves as they construct meaning through the words and relate it to their past experiences, thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. But the music is instrumental to the feel of this story and lyrics and music must complement each other and take the listener on a journey together. So, in that sense we like to create the space for imagination within the lyrics to allow the process of interpretation develop for our listeners as they move through the emotive essence that underpins each song. It is truly fantastic when a fan talks to us about the meaning of our songs or asks more about the meaning behind the words. For us as song-writers, it is always a great moment to receive interest in the different aspects that makes up the song writing process as a whole.

How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
-The album cover has a special place in the entire production process for the band as it symbolises the essence of the album in the way that that encapsulates the meaning of the album for us, and, we hope, for the listener too. It seems that the volume of bands, and album releases, increases year on year in the age of the digital world so it helps to try to create something that stands out and represents the identity of the band. Often with downloads, the album cover will feature quite prominently and it is part of the whole promotion aspect of a new release to get the album known and circulated through streaming and download sites, webzines, digital radio and social media platforms. We think it helps to try to reflect the essence of the music with an imaginative ‘eye-catching’ visual representation, especially in terms of the album cover which often may be the first aspect of a band that a person is exposed to. For us, the cover of The Awakening was constructed with the sense of ‘realisation’ in mind based around seeing things from multiple perspectives and moving beyond the here and now. The idea for us began with an iris at the centre of this vision, and we talked about a mixture of colours that reflect each members’ eye colour to represent our unique perspectives and contributions, but in a way that combines us to become more than the sum of our individual parts, and so we mixed that idea into a cosmic scene to give that sense of reflection and ‘new horizons’ beyond the here and now. Videos too are growing in popularity as an overall first experience of a band and as they are now more accessible online than ever before, and in some respects becoming an increasingly realistic production goal for bands and standards are certainly rising in terms of quality and production ‘polish’. We haven’t produced a video yet for the album but have made a couple of animated ‘lyric videos’ that try to reflect the story of the song, as well as an album sampler. David certainly has some interesting narratives for a potential official band video and Kull has a lot of creative ideas so this is something that will likely follow in time.

Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve?
-Europe has seen such a great evolution and diversity of metal genres and a huge increase in the volume of bands on the scene trying to break through. But to ‘break big’ can mean different things to different bands; for many it is enough to be making music, playing shows and growing the fan base, and that certainly takes time to develop, but for others ‘breaking big’ might mean playing at top festivals, supporting huge names and selling a great deal of records. For us, we focus on enjoying making new music and seeing long-time fans enjoy what we do and new fans discover the band and want to hear more. Overall, success for us is that sense of holistic achievement, with a big part of that in more recent times about achieving the release of the new album which was long in the making. Staying active is quite important for a band that wants to ‘break big’ but you need a lot of commitment and support behind you to make it achievable and it takes a lot of sacrifice. Touring is very helpful in gaining exposure but is especially tough for new bands due to the financial expenses and time commitment involved in touring, especially given the rise of the ‘pay to play’ culture for support slots that bands ‘bid’ for. Couple this with what is involved in making an album, and all the assets that go along with it, a band requires a vast amount of energy, a clear strategy and realistic plans as well as time, energy, financing, commitment and focus, all of which are vital and are very much a group effort. Choices must be made about the sorts of things that a band can engage in and how active they can be at certain times so it needs to be quite well planned to retain a sense of stability and progression in the rather turbulent music industry. If a band wants to grow, every member must understand what ‘the big picture’ and ‘breaking big’ means for them as a band and how growth works in the overall industry, especially in terms of the genre(s) they are within or across. A band needs a vision of how it wants to position itself year on year to grow and make decisions early on to achieve this, but it really is a group effort even if someone else is leading that – be that a band leader, manager or management company – and you need to be determined and motivated to achieve this. It is vital that bands get together and decide on their vision then plan a strategy that is realistic – and review it often – if they really want to ‘break big’ in whatever way that is meaningful to them. The metal world, with all of its interesting subgenres and cross-overs, is certainly a very competitive and noisy world to navigate, but with great music to share, an interesting identity, great motivation and communication, and with a clear strategy and continually making connections, growing the fanbase becomes more realistic for any band. You have to keep listening and learning about the world you are within and be both proactive and responsive to peak and sustain interest.

Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
-The online world has indeed exploded in terms of the digital platforms to stream and download music and we have seen a lot of change during our time, so this is a very interesting question and it is certainly a great learning curve for Apparition as the digital world is new territory for us. Across the band, we have experience stretching as far back as 30 years when the metal world was a very different place and the internet and social media did not exist; it was all gigs, radio, record shops and print magazines. But being active and persistent in gaining exposure is not so different now than it was back then when we were sending out physical demo tapes (or later CDs) and press packs to music magazines, venues, labels and radio stations hoping to peak interest and gain a mention or a gig. In a way, uploading and sharing material online in various locations to gain exposure is not so dissimilar in principle to what we were doing in the past, except that there is obviously much more direct access now to the listeners than ever before; the hard part is standing out in the volume of what is out there and knowing how and where to direct yourself to stand out. The bar certainly seems higher these days, and not just in terms of song writing and performance expectations, but also in terms of the production quality of music and visual assets. Working hard to develop a good following as a band requires a lot of hard work in terms of producing music and defining your identity, but it also requires a strong online presence across digital platforms and a lot of marketing and promotion, including the use of social media platforms, webzine and fanzines, in addition to having an interesting website and hitting all the right spaces to showcase your music. Importantly, those in the music business that work hard to promote and expose new music through their reviews, articles and radio presence are still a vital conduit of support that every band needs to help them to stand out and be noticed. So, the premise is the same as it always has been: network and put your music out there in every which way you can. That is the easy part nowadays if you have the motivation as a band to do it as the access is wide-open, but that alone is not enough because standing out in such vast competition is the hard work and requires constant work and it is hard to gain exposure if you are not actively making connections and working with those who can help you to do that by moving beyond your personal own network. It’s the support from fans, reviewers and the media which make a difference; when people enjoy your music they are likely to talk about it and share it, and we are always immensely grateful when this happens; for us, that is a very powerful aspect as people will vote with their feet (or these days a ‘like’, ‘share’ or similar), so having that support is extremely important, and we are very thankful for everyone, from fellow musicians, followers, fans, reviewers, the label, press, radio and the wider media, and all their networks, who have all taken the time to listen to us and share what we do. Overall, we are learning that the digital online world is perhaps not that ‘blind’ to all but the music as we feel that the combined foundation of solid and interesting song writing, along with our identity as a band and our persistent activity, presence and networking is what will help our music to stand out.

What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
-We do not really have a ‘local’ scene as we are all scattered around different areas of the UK. London often appears to have the most going on in terms of metal bands, especially looking at local bands and visiting bands touring the UK, and in terms of the range and volume of more local bands playing. Manchester and Birmingham, where most of our past and present experience sits, appear to be seeing more live metal events and ‘showcase’ events for new bands at a more local level than perhaps in the last decade. This is great as it shows more support for local bands to create and build a platform and gain a following that may help to translate nationally. Making connections with other bands from other cities is helpful as you can gig-share and support each other in gaining exposure to new crowds outside of your own local fanbase. With a lot of hard work, commitment and travel, this can translate into a more national interest. So, networking with other bands and helping each other to break out beyond a local scene is very important for growth as well as playing at local metal festivals up and down the country where people are interested in hearing something new and there are several such small events across the UK which are helpful to play at. However, it would be good to see more national platforms available and more local venues with dedicated nights as many bands must travel outside of their local areas to gain exposure as there is no ‘local scene’ to speak of where they are from. Social media can help build a platform but it is harder to translate that ‘in-the-flesh-performance’ to the online world, and it can be harder to break through nationally without travelling and making those connections, so that is where social media can help. But the work of venues and local promoters is very important in making these events happen and sustaining them. There are a lot of hardworking and passionate promoters out there and many great bands who play with such passion at supportive venues, working hard with promoters to keep live metal a sustainable feature, and often if a metal fan finds a local show, they will come away having had a great night, heard some great music and met some fantastic people. UK and European metal festivals can also be very helpful platforms for a band to make international connections and partner with other bands from different countries to make touring abroad more of a reality. Ten years ago in 2007, David, with the help of Fiona and the former drummer of Apparition, put together ‘The Dames of Darkness Festival’ based in the UK Midlands as back then it was very hard to get a national audience for emerging and developing metal bands. Social media was not as common as a tool to promote shows as it is now, so you were more reliant on local posters, radio and promoters (if there was one), as well as the venue itself promoting the show. So, Apparition pulled a few bands together to pool the resources, contacts and fanbase and convinced a venue to give us a Saturday based on the strength of several local bands playing all day together, as well as gaining some sponsorship from local radio. It took a lot of leg work from the bands involved and huge support from our fans and networks to make it work but it did, and the Dames of Darkness Festival was born in 2007 and has been running for 10 years so far. It has done very well over the years but ideally, we want to see more local and national platforms that showcase the great diversity of genres across the UK that help emerging metal talent to grow more nationally.

Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the stone age. How accepted is metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
-As a band over time, we have found that there is a different appreciation of metal in different areas of the UK, with a bit more happening in certain places, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, which are locations that many visiting acts from Europe or the US tend to prioritise when they tour. However, there is local activity in various cities and towns with some great bands spread across England, Scotland and Wales. However, we all certainly wish that Metal was more like ‘mother’s milk’ across the UK. The 70s was such an important and progressive decade for metal music, but the general ‘popular’ acceptance of metal across the UK is still not what you would call ‘mainstream’ like it is in Finland or some other European countries and is still lacking in representation across popular critic polls; for example, only one British metal band featured in Metal Hammers list of the greatest albums of the 21st Century in 2016, despite metal being commonly understood as ‘born’ out of the UK. In 2015 Spotify revealed their most loyal music listeners to be metalheads, yet popular mainstream acceptance still isn’t that common for metal bands in the UK. From more personal experience, ‘mainstream’ pop culture and general social attitudes in the UK towards metal music can sometimes appear stuck in the past due to that underappreciation of the variety that metal offers by way of sub-genres and styles, which often appears as a barrier to its progression as a more prominent live scene across the UK, as well as socially constructed stereotypical views of metal bands and musicians which can make some genres less accessible and popular than others – and that is before you attempt to divide up the many different genres within metal – but despite that, there are some great ‘pockets’ of metal culture across the UK. Although live metal is not a ‘huge’ scene in the UK a lot of people would recognise the essence of what metal encapsulates even if there understanding is a bit limited. Overall, wider attitudes towards metal across the UK are changing with increased variety in the sorts of bands and musicians that are performing and the events that are showcasing them. Part of this has been due to the creation of specific events and platforms to widen access to the metal world for those within it or those new to it, such as genre specific festivals and female-fronted band platforms like The Dames of Darkness Festival hosted by Apparition or the original ‘Femme Fatales’ stage at Bloodstock 2004 which Fiona performed at with her first band. Events like these have been historically important, particularly for female metal musicians who have often struggled to gain access to the very male-dominated metal world, often having to work harder to build credibility as a musician within it. We appreciate that platforms like this are still very necessary across some parts of the globe, but are becoming less so in other places as attitudes are changing and diversity in the ranks of metal bands and across festival line-ups is increasing, not just in terms of gender, but also in terms of culture, race, ethnicity and background, albeit more slowly in some places than others. Generally speaking, from our experiences across the UK, metal-folk are an accepting and welcoming community and there is increasing space for different kinds of metal bands to emerge and develop and we hope we will see attitudes towards (and within) the metal world continue to grow more holistically and inclusively over time.

What does the future hold for you?
-We are looking forward to growing our fanbase through the launch of the new Album – The Awakening –
on 2nd February 2018, and in March in Japan. The launch will expose us more officially in the US, and in Japan for the first time too, so we are looking forward to breaking into new countries and gaining new fans. We hope to schedule a launch show in mid-2018, likely to be held in the UK, and hope to perform at a few of the smaller European festivals beyond that, and perhaps some other shows alongside other bands across Europe we have developed friendships with over the years. We are just letting it roll really and focusing on reaction to the new material and following the inspiration that comes from that. There is material already in the making for further down the line, but for now we hope to just enjoy the success of the new album, which was hard work in the making, but was a fantastic experience for all of us.

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