I have nothing against side projects. It is not for me to judge. I’m happy as long as I get another dose of metal. As with HELLWELL. A band that can be traced back to Manilla Road. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
Could you tell us why you felt a need to do Hellwell? What are the intentions with this band?
Shark: I started Hellwell for a couple of reasons. First because I have been trying to put out a side project for years and seem to have always been swayed from releasing said projects because they always turn into Manilla Road albums instead of what they were intended to be. Circus Maximus is my best example of this. So it is good to finally accomplish an actual side project that the labels did not turn into a MR album haha. The other reason is that I was starting to feel the urge to write more horror oriented material and I did not feel that Manilla Road was the proper outlet for such material. Manilla Road has dabbled in the horror topics many times but there is usually a positive moral attitude to the lyrics even though the topics are dark in nature. When MR did Playground of the Damned it was some of that deranged horror attitude was starting to seep into the music and lyrics. When we started Hellwell the idea was to have a classic horror approach to most of the topics and not necessarily worry about good prevailing in the end. obviously since I am in the band writing and performing there will always be a bit of the MR sound in the music but because of the keyboards and synthesizers and a little more speed/thrash/doom approach to the drums the style is not exactly the same as the Road. Let’s face anything that I do will have a bit of that epic approach that I just can’t seem to get away from so there will always be similarities to the Road because of that.
When you sign with a smaller label is there more freedom to doing things your way? Do you feel that you get more deciding power?
Shark: Yep you do get a little more control over everything when you are on a smaller label. The only way you get to have more control like that with larger labels is to have the clout to negotiate because the demand for the artist is bigger than some other bands. Since this is the first Hellwell project to be released the band is not established yet except for the fact that we are getting a bit of publicity due to the Manilla Road connection. You do get more deciding power and usually I make sure now days that I have complete control over certain aspects of the releases like the artwork and the direction of the music. The choice of topics and overall concepts are for me to decide only. I’m sort of a power monger when it comes to the directional choices for any of my bands.
When you play in more than one band how do you keep them separated? Are there never any risks of you getting them mixed up?
Shark: It does not seem to be much of an issue for us. We are all one big family of musicians here. All of the MR members except for Neudi have appeared on Beyond the Boundaries of Sin. E.C. was the bass player on Playground of the Damned filling in for Vince who developed physical problems with his hand during the recording of the album. So the only thing that becomes an issue for us with the two bands is that everyone wants to be on a Hellwell album now hahaha. What’s different now is that when I write a new song we all approach it with a which band is this for attitude. I’m sort of kidding there. I usually have an idea already in my head when writing a new song but sometimes something just flies out of my fingers and we have to sit down and figure out which band it would work best with.
Hardrock/heavy metal in a more traditional style isn’t that big in the States. How much does all the trendy shit that we get force fed with suck? What is classic hardrock/metal to you?
Shark: I usually try and take a it’s all music approach to any style of music. But I must admit it is really hard to stick to that when everyone in the industry is putting genre markers on everything. Classic hard rock and metal to me is the style that led us into the metal years that we are in now. Lost to the youth of today are some of the great masters of what was the beginnings of the metal style. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Jimi Hendrix, Rush, UFO, Scorpions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden just to name a very few. It was a much more artistic approach with bands like those. Epic topics were the norm back then and the lyrics were not just about sex, drugs and rock n roll. You also have to have solos in the music. I just can’t seem to call it true metal unless there are some cool guitar solos in the songs. Also you have to actually sing and not just scream and growl when it comes to the vocals. So many bands now days just have this screaming growling thing going on and that is it. Gets sort of monotonous after a bit. You can scream and growl in Classic Metal but you also have to sing as well. It can’t just all be death metal vocals. It is also a stylistic approach to the creation of the music that makes it classic in nature. And that is what is probably the most important aspect to the difference between classic metal and now day metal.
When you’ve been doing this for as long as you have does it feel great to know that you?ve stuck by it for so long?
Shark: Oh yea it does. I remember saying to myself long ago that if I was determined enough and stayed with it long enough that someone would eventually have to take notice hahah. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go in my day and most of the bands that tried to follow the trends instead of sticking to their guns failed epically. Now there are a few bands that changed direction with the times a bit and remained very successful. Metallica comes to mind there. They sort of lost their original audience but gained a shitload of new fans when they started to get a little more accessible with their sound. So it worked out really good for them but that is not usually the case when you forsake your main fan base. I told myself, when I first started making albums, that I would not sell out to accessibility for the sake of money. I’m really glad that I stuck to my guns on that one because I think it has brought us an immense amount of respect amongst our fans. It has also seemed to bring us respect in the general market place as well. Sometimes it pays to be stubborn haha. I’ve been doing this for 35 years now and it is really good to feel that I never traded in my spurs for an apron.
So how hard was it to write this Hellwell album? Did it all come as running water or did you have to think long and hard to make it happen?
Shark: Well it did take an amount of work converting the Acheronomicon story to music and lyrics but since Ernie wrote the story it was not that difficult of a job for me. Most of the music came like the running water you were talking about. This project just sort of poured out of me. I think we were all really ready to work on Hellwell and we were all really pumped about it too. I think that was because of it being a new band and a chance to be unbridled with no worries about how the project would be received by our fans. Since it is a new band we don’t really have any fans yet so it was sort of like whatever we wanted to do was fair game. I could get as gruesome as I wanted with the topics and lyrics and basically it was a no holds barred type of thing that set a really cool environment for us to create this kind of album in. We had only one rule between us all when we were writing and recording the project and that was “NO CHEESE”. What that meant to us was that everything was cool but nothing sounding cheesy could go onto the project. Nothing but brutal concepts and intense music. And of course it had to be dark in nature because of the idea of the band but that never felt like a restriction to us. We actually wrote and recorded the album in about 7 or 8 months time. That’s pretty good for us considering all the other stuff that was going on at the time. So I would have to say that this Hellwell project came together much easier and faster than most. We must have been really ready to work on something like this because we were all on point when it came to getting things done on this album. Even the guys in MR were and are still really excited about Hellwell and looking forward to what we do next.
What kind of process do you work by when writing songs? Do you and try to think up new stuff?
Shark: I usually come up with the concept for the song first. Then I start working on the rhythm parts while I’m sort of coming up with vocal melodies at the same time. Once I have all the riffs written and a strong arrangement put together that is when I will start writing the lyrics. I used to write the lyrics first and then try and come up with music to match but I learned over time that I did a lot better with the writing process if I did the lyrics last. It just seems to be easier to match the lyrics to the music than the other way around. That way the meter of the lyrics does not drive the music but instead the music drives the meter of the lyrics. As for the topics and lyrics I always do a fair amount of research on whatever topic I am writing about. It is necessary to know what the hell I am talking about before I start trying to put the lyrics together. It depends upon the concept of the song as to whether I have to spend lots of time researching the topic or not. If the topic is something that I am really familiar with then there is little time spent on research and knowledge searching. Like with the song Eaters of the Dead I was already a big fan of the book and the movie (The 13th Warrior) so it did not take long to come up with those lyrics at all. But songs like The Strange Case of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or Keepers of the Devils Inn caused me to do a lot of studying and research before ever putting pen to paper. Even though I already knew a lot about those songs topics I wanted to make sure that I had all the facts straight before I started working on the lyrics. For the most part Beyond the Boundaries of Sin was a relatively easy album to create.
I sometime wonder how you guys can come up with news stuff all the time. You are after all dealing with a limited amount of chords and there are only so many words you can write lyrics with. How do you do it?
Shark: Yep there are only 12 notes in a chromatic scale so there is a limit to the amount of notes and chords that you can use. Luckily there are many different chord voices that one can use to get the same chord out there in a slightly different sounding way. It is the arranging of the chords and notes that makes the most difference in letting a song sound new and original. As for the words there are a multitude of stories, myths, legends and a vast amount of history that I have to fall back on for the topic ideas. I could probably do this for 100 years and still have plenty of topics and ideas for more songs. As for how I do it…well let’s put it this way I have had put upon me the blessed curse of the muse. Sometimes I don’t even feel like it is me writing the stuff but something guiding my hand. I must admit I don’t have a lot of time to myself because of all the irons that I have in the fire but it is all worth it to me. You see music is my life and what drives me on. It is the one and only true communication source that speaks to all of us without world conflict tethered to it. Music is universal for all of us and the only pure magik that still exists in the world. As long as there is music there is still hope for mankind.
Is Hellwell a touring band? How will you find time to do everything you do?
Shark: Right now Hellwell is not a touring band. If the demand is big enough for Hellwell to get out on the road then we will cross that bridge when the time comes. Ernie is not really into touring that much. He had a chance to sign on with Manilla Road permanently but turned down the opportunity because he did not really want to tour. As a matter of fact he is sort of a reclusive type of guy and hides out at his place working on stories or music. He does not really like technology except for the musical type. He does not even have a facebook page…can’t say that I blame him there. I don’t like fb or tweeter either but it is a necessary evil for the promotion of the music. Ernie does not even have a cell phone and is not on the internet. Hell I don’t think he even owns a computer. It might be difficult getting him to really go on tour but even if he does not want to go on tour we have several other bass players that can rise to the challenge. I don’t know that many good keyboard players though and that might be an issue but if Hellwell really got big enough to worry about touring I am sure that we can work all of it out so that we can put on great shows. As for having enough time to do it all I think I will have myself cloned so that I can have as many hands as I do irons in the fire.
What future do you see for Hellwell
Shark: Well I am just now finishing the final touches on the mix for the new Manilla Road album and as soon as that is done I will be back to working on a couple of side projects which Hellwell is one of. I have another band that I sing in called Myskatonia and we are just now finishing up on that album. Not going to be a live band at all. Just a project for the hell of it. But with Hellwell we have already written and recorded 3 new songs for the next album. So obviously I will be doing another Hellwell album and I hope to finish that before I take off on the Manilla Road world tour for 2013. The Road is playing in Canada in late September and then in Greece headlining the Up The Hammers festival in Athens in the middle of October. After that I will be working on the next Hellwell album until MR goes back out on tour around April of 2013. So the future for Hellwell is another album to be released sometime in 2013 and we will just have to see how well Beyond the Boundaries of Sin and the next project are received. If the reception of Hellwell so far is any preview for us then I would have to say that Hellwell will be around for a long time to come.
Thanks to you and all our fans for the support that has been given to us. We can’t do it without our friends and fans. Down The Nails