I gotta say that the names ARDUINI/BALICH didn’t say too much to me. But then I haven’t beenthat name obsessed in recent years as I was in my youth. With track records from Fates Warning and Argus you might know these two gentlemen. Answers by BRIAN “BUTCH” BALICH Anders Ekdahl ©2017
Let’s start with your latest recording. When you look back at it now what kind of feelings do you have for it? What kind of expectations do you have for it?
-We are immensely proud of it. I think we both felt like we pushed ourselves individually and collectively as musicians to create the best record we could. A lot of time and work went into it and we feel, no matter how it does in terms of sales, that it’s a great album and one that will be special to each of us. I think it’s a challenging listen and one you need to take in as a whole and really pay attention to…it’s not background noise. That being – though the songs are long I think we managed to write songs that don’t feel as long as they are. “Beyond the Barricade” is 17+ minutes and it goes by quickly because we keep it moving and interesting.
We have no true expectations for the album. Of course we’d like it to connect with people and for people to return to it time and again. If it managed to sell well that would certainly by satisfying but we didn’t set out with goals of high sales and world domination. We set out with expectations to make a great album.
How did the two of you meet and that prompted a collaboration? Is it a given that you can work together just because you are musicians?
-We met through Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept and became online friends and found we had a lot in common. And then Freedoms Reign and Argus played some shows together. We hit it off. I was a fan of Victor’s, of course, as a Fates Warning fan and he had become an Argus fan and dug my voice. When he found he had to replace the singer he initially had in mind for this project I threw my hat in the ring and he went for it.
It is never a given that a collaboration can work out. You have to have common musical and personal ground to build from. I think it’s also important that people can have strong opinions yet not have ego clashes. Vic and I are both like that. Both of us were unafraid to have strong opinions but we also knew when the other had an idea that was the best for the song. That is huge because often ego can drive a project straight to hell. You can bring together the most talented musicians/writers in the world but if they can’t get along it will never work.
You both have pasts that are successful and influential. Does that bring with it a certain degree of pressure in having to not suck in what you are doing? How do you know that you can deliver outside of your “comfort zones”?
-There was no pressure from any of that for either of us. The only pressure was pressure we put on ourselves to create a great album. We never had a discussion such as “Will Fates Warning or Argus fans like this?” I think we are both confident in our abilities and the judgement of if we’ve delivered the goods was based on how we felt about what we’d created. We set a high standard for this project and each pushed himself into places we’d never been musically… We knew if we made the album we wanted to make and worked to the best of our abilities that it would not suck.
How important is image today? What impression do you want the fans to get of the band?
-In some ways it is not as important as it was in the 80s. Back then you wouldn’t have caught too many metal musicians with short hair or just wearing jeans and t-shirts. I think it still plays a role depending on the style of music you are playing as bands still have to be marketed and as silly as it is there are definitely some folks who still listen with their eyes just not to the extent it used to be.
I, personally, wants fans to focus on our music and how it makes them feel one way or another. The musicianship, lyrics, emotion etc…. We aren’t a band that set out to play live so our focus is all on the music not image.
I am a huge fan of LP art work. How important is it to have the right art work for your album?
-Huge. When there are so many choices for people to spend their money you need artwork that will draw the eye and that fits your music. Sometimes someone is making a decision on your album based on the vibe the cover gives them. It is how I bought some records in my teenage years. On a personal level I love the visual medium associated with album releases so cover art is important to me. Its something really cool. Michael Cowell did a brilliant job capturing the vibe and mood of Dawn of Ages. I couldn’t be happier with how it came out.
We live in a superficial world today where you don’t exist if you are not on Youtube and Facebook. Has social media been only beneficial in socializing with the fans or is there a down side to it too?
-It’s a great way to stay in touch or get the message out. The downside of the net is it opened the floodgates and now there are almost too many choices and too many bands posting stuff before they are truly read. You have a to wade through a lot of shit sometimes to find the jewels.
When you play in a band does it feel like you are a part of a massive community? That you belong to something that gives meaning to your life?
-With or without playing in a band music has always given meaning to my life. Being involved in the metal scene at times does feel like a large family or community of people you have instant connection with on some level. It’s always been fun to meet people worldwide who not only have the same interests I have but who actually enjoy my music. Very humbling.
When you are in the middle of it do you notice what state our beloved music scene is in? Is the scene healthy or does it suffer from some ailment?
-I think you can notice it more from the middle. When you are immersed in the scene and you are exposed to all sides of it – performing, fan, business you get a good picture of it. I find the scene to be creatively healthy – a lot of great bands making some really good music and not feeling beholden to doing anything but making the best album they can rather than filling some required role. On the downside the business is as it has always been except harder. Labels expect more and pay less. Publications are in many ways still beholden to the major labels who pay for advertising in exchange for space. It’s as it has always been…its just the money is so light for everyone that it makes it harder than ever to make a name for yourselves. Labels want great recordings yet don’t want to pay. Labels want bands to tour but don’t give tour support. BUT musically there is so much good music out there. It’s hard to keep up with it really. Metal fans continue to be the most dedicated fans in the world. The base may have shrunk to those who truly love it but those people are the heartbeat of the scene.
How much of a touring band are you guys? What kind of state is the live scene in today? Has the different digital platforms harmed of benefitted live music?
-We are not a touring band but we do hope we can play select shows in the future if good opportunities arise. Playing live is hard. There isn’t always enough cash for touring expenses so it makes it really hard for bands to get out there and do it…especially overseas. Due to costs of travel it is really hard for US bands to play in Europe and European bands to play the US without losing tons of cash. Digital platforms have definitely harmed music sales. I’m not sure of the effect on live music. Maybe it helps some in that more people get exposed to your music even if they aren’t buying it and then they are willing to come see you live and then buy shirts etc…..
What will the future bring?
-We are enjoying watching the reviews and reactions from fans come in as well as discussing the album with people. We are basking in the glow of having created an album we love. That is the present. For the future – we both hope to eventually do another album and perhaps a few live shows given the right circumstances. Eventually the timing will line up and these things may happen