I was so impressed by this Us band that I just had to interview COLLECTOR about this and that. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
What kind of vision did you have when you started and how has it changed over the years?
-Well Collector was a cover band until 2014 so I feel like a lot has changed haha. I mean we just wanted to make the music we like and have fun and that is still there. We didn’t want be one of those bands that sound exactly the same as millions of other bands and we would like to believe we have achieved that. For better or worse.
One thing about Liberation’s Fall is that it is sort of transition album for us. I personally come from a more progressive, melodic background whereas the rest of the band grew up with Thrash Metal. Thus you hear a bit of both. There are more melodic, progressive stuff like The Undead Kings, Angels etc. and speed metal/Thrash sort of stuff like System Has Failed, A Tale of Titans etc. And even some death metal here and there. The ultimate goal of the band is to get to that melodic progressive metal stage. So things will change drastically over albums. We are hoping to have full orchestra and choirs on the next albums. We will see how that goes I guess.
I get the feeling that there is a greater story behind your debut album than just the old boring boy meets girl stories. What can you tell me about “Liberation’s Fall”?
-Yes haha. We grew up in Turkey. Lived there for 18 years before moving to US. And unfortunately Turkey is a country where you don’t have to look too hard for the evil. The country has been going through rough times lately. Corruption, police brutality, rape, murder, war, they have it all. This inevitably affected our art. For example the song Angels is dedicated to Ozgecan Arslan. A 20 year old girl who was raped and killed. Her body was burned and dumped in a river. A tragic event that impacted all of us emotionally. The System Has Failed is about the riots where many were killed.
We have always been fascinated by the whole Angels, Demons, Dragons culture so we wanted to combine our story with these motifs. We are telling the story of a Nephilim, a half demon, half angel that is fighting to keep the balance between good and evil. This of course means going against the good sometimes. He keeps the balance with the help of his brothers and sisters, ten other Nephilim, the last of their breed. The story tells the origin of life is energy. Their job is to converse the flow of energy and prevent any kingdom (demons, angels, undead kings etc.) from abusing its power. In this story the energy is channeled through (turned into life) through ten pillars of life. Representing water, fire, earth, air, electric, ice, psychic, light, dark and time. Each Nephilim represent one of these pillars and the black rose under the pillar. We present these motifs of war and violence through their story. However, I have to tell you, as it will be revealed later on, this is not one of those stories that have a happy ending. We are telling the story of life and things in real life rarely have a happy ending. All life ends in death.
We take this story really seriously. It helps us tell things more poetically. We even created our own alphabet for it. You can see it in the booklet and our circular logo. We haven’t told anyone what the symbols mean. Maybe one of our fans will decipher it at some point haha. This story affects our costumes, our stage show, everything.
Your album “Liberation’s Fall” has some really cool guests on it. How did you manage to get them to guest on the album?
-Yes. It was surreal to work with Chris, Warrel and Vicky. Chris has been a good friend for many years and my guitar teacher for the past 2 years or so. We have some other exciting small side projects coming up with him. I met Vicky when they were touring with Epica. We have some close friends in Epica and I met her backstage and told her about the song and the project and she was instantly on board. Warrel was a very last minute addition. We actually had someone else lined up for that song but because of issues with his own band, he had to drop out. We basically started reaching out to bunch of other musicians that would fit the song, in panic haha. After all, the song was written and recorded for two singers and we couldn’t go back and randomly cut out parts. It was really hard reaching Warrel. I got in touch with his manager from Nevermore years. He initially put us in touch but it was Marcus, the drummer from his solo project, that arranged a face to face. They are actually putting out the solo album this Fall. Warrel recorded some of this parts before his passing and some amazing guest vocalist completed the rest. I heard some of the demos back in the day and it will be an amazing album.
Anyway, the guest artist will always be there for Collector. We grew up listening to this people and this is our chance to work with our heroes. No way we will skip on that. We also gain amazing friends through working with other people. That’s what happened with Vicky and Warrel. I have some great names in mind for the next album. Bigger names. Can’t start reaching out to these people until we are done composing and decide who will fit the song best but you can expect something great for sure. We have made many friends from various bands in the past two years and I definitely want to get some of them on board for the next album.
What kind of feedback have you had on your music, your latest album and in general? How important is feedback?
-The album has been very well received so far. Of course as it is the case with any other band there are people who love it and people who hate it. We will take all the feedback, good and bad, and try to be better on the next album without compromising from our sound and what we want do. Overall people love it. This is something different and fresh for them as well. A little bit outside the box. The media has been very supportive, the fans are engaging with us and our music online, sharing our singles, buying the album. Of course we haven’t sold tens of thousands of copies but you have to remember that we are a very very new band. It hasn’t been two months yet that we have released our debut album. A few months ago we technically didn’t exist. Nobody knew about us. Suddenly we came out of nowhere and people started talking about us. We have a really high conversion rate. Most of those people we were able to reach are buying the album which is something we haven’t expected really. Compared to other new bands who released their first albums, we are doing amazing. Given the number of the bands emerging every day, a lot of the bands can’t get their name out there until their second or third albums. It is good to see that we are standing out. The goal now is to reach more people. The stats will be more definitive once one of our singles approaches 100K views which we hope will happen within the first year of the release.
As I have said, feedback is of course important to us. We listen to everybody who have something constructive to say. However, we primarily do this for ourselves and to have fun. We cannot always change our sound according to the demand. Liberation’s Fall was a very risky album. We could have very well gone with the sounds that have proven itself to be liked but we didn’t. We wanted to do something different, something new. We will never succumb to mediocrity. Unfortunately selling albums is necessary to get a good tour so we have to listen to what people say a little bit. You know find a good balance between experimenting and the norm.
How do you know that you have written a “hit” song? Is there a particular feeling you get when you know that this is the one, this is the big “make it song”?
-Haha I actually have no idea. As I have mentioned we never had to worry about writing a hit song. If we did, we would have gone down an entirely different path. We don’t have the ambitions of becoming the biggest metal band or something like that. We just want to be big enough to keep doing this and touring as much as possible. Maybe we will exceed our own expectations on this path. The time will tell. Metal is not like pop. The audience is very unpredictable. You never know what will become a hit. Although it is too early to tell, we expect ‘A Tale of Titans’ to be the hit song from the album. It has that energy that people like. It always pushes forward. That was the first song we wrote and once it was done we said ‘Ok we will be fine. This will be sick album’. I personally had a lot of faith in ‘The Undead Kings’ and ‘Angels’ however it looks like they have been overlooked so far.
We all have solid day jobs. I am a computer scientist specializing in Cyber Security. I have worked with some of the biggest companies out there, Twitter, VMware. Nowadays I am working on starting a few new companies, doing some stuff with Google. I am actually helping Jake E. (Cyhra, ex-Amaranthe) build a pretty cool company that will help a lot of musicians. Yagiz, the drummer, is training to be a neuro-surgeon and Umut, the bass player, is a mechanical engineer. We have the luxury of saying that we don’t have to make a living from music which gives us a lot of flexibility. We put some of the money we make from music towards the next album and donate the rest.
As I am no musician I will never got to know the difference of analogue and digital. Can you explain the difference to me? what are the pros and cons of analogue V/S digital?
-Very simply, put think of digital as anything software and analog as anything hardware, something solid that you can hold. The analog representation of the sound is electrical, whereas the digital is binary, a string of 1s and 0s.
In analog, your instrument or amp directly goes into the mix board where the sound waves get turned into electrical signals. If you wanted an effect like delay or reverb, you take the signal out from the board, into the effect pedal or whatever and then back into the board using cables. People actually used to use these giant boards with physical magnets to create a simple reverb. A gate would literally block certain voltages in the electrical signal. You can google these old effects, they are pretty cool! The sound is then recorded on the tape, which contains metal like particles. The tape recorder magnetically re-arranges these particles to encode the song. This has its downsides. You don’t get a lot of freedom to edit. People used to actually cut the tape if they made mistake, or if they wanted to double vocals they actually replayed the recording, sang on top and recorded into another tape. There are a lot of amazing artist such as Hendrix and Beatles that pulled crazy tricks with analog tech. Since the form of the sound is conserved, you get better quality in analog. In digital you break the sound into 1s and 0s and then reconstruct the sound as well as you can, however some information do get lost in the transformation. In digital everything is software. The digital effects directly edit the binary representation of sound. If you want to replay, you don’t have to roll the tape back, you can just click and the software will create a pointer to that location. You can edit, copy and paste down to milliseconds. Well depending on your sampling rate… Editing is very simple and can be automated. Finally the computer turns these digital bits back to sound.
There are still amazing producers that work analog, like Anssi Kippo. We personally went digitally because of the complexity of our music. There are a lot of tempo and time changes that would have made the recording process really painful for us. However the drums were played back into analog tape in order to gain some extra power. You can hear that tape hiss if you listen closely.
What is it like to have people you never met liking your music and singing along to it at gigs?
-It’s magical. As much as we do this for ourselves primarily, I have to admit that it feels amazing when someone talks about your hard work, wears your t-shirt and sings your song. A show can only be amazing with the audience. If they don’t engage, it becomes really boring on stage. We haven’t yet had huge crowds sing our songs, primarily because all the shows we played were before we released the album but hopefully those days are near.
How important are lyrics to you guys? Do you have any messages that you want to get forward?
-Lyrics are really important in a sense that they tell a story. They have to support the music in conveying the emotion. There are a lot of bands that compose great parts but have empty lyrics. That just leaves me hanging. I want the people who sing these songs feel something when they do. Lyrics are a crucial part of getting the audience to engage. I don’t want to sing about sex, break ups and shit like that. There is only so much you can say about those things. They are shallow topics. It’s boring.
I don’t think we are conveying a larger message. Songs do have individual messages that they are trying to put forward but nothing in general. It’s all one large story, sit back and enjoy. Think of it as a movie or audio book.
I love a really cool cover but I get the feeling that today with all this digital uploading/downloading people aren’t that concerned about artwork. How do you feel?
-Visual elements are really important to us for many reasons. They support the music and the story. We can only paint so many colors with our music. They also tell a different story on their own. Plus you support the artist you like by commissioning work to them. You understand the struggles a lot better when you are an artist yourself. For example I started buying a lot more albums after I started making my own. We did a very comprehensive research before picking the artist that we worked with and they all delivered amazing results. Chris Cold did the front and back cover. It shows an angel and demon fighting in a circle, representing the eternal fight between good and evil. The war never ends. Pablo Fernandez did the Collector with the demons and the dragon. This is the first professional illustration of the ‘light’ form of Collector showing the demons and the black dragon and accompany him on his journey. This figure will become what Vic is to Megadeth or Eddie to Maiden. This is really important for branding our band. Finally, Yoann Lossell did the reaper for of Collector with one angel wing and one demon. Showing his half breed nature, surrounded by Angel warriors. He is a traditional artist that works with gold and graphite. Knowing that thing was done by hand, it is crazy… We also did a photoshoot with the acclaimed photographer Jeremy Saffer. That kind of themed shoot was a little bit outside his comfort zone but he did an amazing job. Every picture visualizes a different part of the story. In one you can see the Nephilim carry the angels back from battle, in some you can see them surrounded by the angels, being protected in the depths of hell.
Ok I got a bit off topic, back to the question… You will also realize that we contain our songs pretty well. We are not on Spotify or any streaming service. We are not on Itunes. I don’t think that such services have anything to offer to new, small bands. They do have advantages for bigger bands but it’s not like we will be getting millions of streams at this stage, realistically. Maybe in the future we can revisit this. We do have a digital download option of the album which comes with all the artwork and digital booklet. You can use these images as background pictures on your computer or phone. We also offer high quality prints and posters on our store. Now imagine a single person uses these pictures or puts up a poster. Their friends will see this and say ‘Oh cool artwork, what band is that?’ and maybe we will get a new hardcore, life long fan that way. The visual stuff is more important for bands now more than ever. Ghost is the living proof of this. If they didn’t have the costumes, the story, the cool photoshoots, they wouldn’t nearly have come close to their current success.
What does the future hold?
-Well, I have to go back to my actual job for a while haha. I will mostly be busy for the next few months coding some stuff. We would like to get a European tour going in mid-2019 so I will probably start asking around if anyone has an opening slot soon. We are always composing on the side so once we have enough material we will head back into the studio. Probably in 2020. As I said, we have some crazy ideas, a lot darker and melodic. Me and Chris Broderick spent the past year arranging some Vivaldi and Beethoven songs for guitar. If both of our schedules line up and if he is up for it, we might do a classical cover for fun, on the side. I have been thinking about covering an Italian aria for a while. I am classical trained but I couldn’t use those skills on ‘Liberation’s Fall’ since it would have sounded ridiculous if someone was singing opera on top of those songs, so I went with the ‘harsh’ vocals. This cover would be a good chance for me to refresh on those skills. Something like ‘Vergin Tutto Amor’ or ‘Pieta Signore’. I was thinking about asking Simone Simons of Epica if she would be interested in joining me on such a cover. Not sure what she will say but would be fun. I will bring this up next time I see her. Regardless, you can expect some small side projects coming out here and there before the second album.