There used to be a band called Holy Terror that released and album called MINDWARS. This is not the same band under a different name but there are connections between the two of them. Answers from Michael. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
A band name sets the tone for the band. With the right name you don’t really need any sort of declaration of intent. Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you?
-Band names is interesting. Something like Metallica is now iconic, but I am not sure it was when they came up with it. It definitely portrays a sense of “metal” and heaviness, but on its own without reference, does it still capture the essence of what those 4 guys were after when they thought of it? Now something like Black Sabbath definitely conjures up visions of darkness and foreboding For us it was pretty simple. Since Mike was from the classic thrash band Holy Terror (how about that for a name) and out of the scene for 25 years, it felt appropriate to somehow link his new band to Holy Terror. However, it was important not to portray this band as a rehash or reformation of Holy Terror. Quite the contrast, it was Mike’s continuation of where he left the scene. Several names were tossed around like Judas Reward, Tomorrow’s End, but Mindwars seemed to fit best. Mind Wars being the last thing HT did as a band and Mike’s interest in things like mind control, brainwashing, politics, war, etc the name seemed to fit.
Who would say are the founding stones of the kind of sound you have? Who are your house Gods and how have they coloured your music?
-We are all influenced by the typical bands from each distinct era such as, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Slayer, etc. We also have a lot of punk influences from such bands as FEAR, SubHumans, Bad Religion, GBH, etc. We also have some differences as individual Mike’s favorite guitarist is Michael Schenker and Roby is a big Blue Oyster Cult fan. I think the influences and mixture of classic metal, NWOBHM, punk, and thrash is expressed in our music.
When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
-This is an interesting question. I don’t think so, but I see where it might seem that way. I have a ton of riffs floating around in my head. Some fast, some slow, some mid-tempo, some good, and some not so good. It is just a matter of me sitting down and trying to translate the riffs from my head to my guitar. If I have something stuck in my head and I really like it, I will try and hum it into my phone to record and play later. I listen to a lot of different music and I think it contributes to the sounds in my head. Sometimes I will be listening to some soft rock music like James Taylor and come up with a real fast and heavy idea. While other times I might be listening to Lamb of God and come up with something entirely different. I try and listen for a melody in everything. It seems that songs develop for me at the strangest times. For example, the last song on our new album Do Unto Others. It is called Take it All Away. We were finished writing and recording bass and drums for all the songs on the album and then Chris Cornell died. Obviously it rocked the world of music and I was inspired to sit and play guitar for a while. In about 15 minutes I came up with this song. It actually sounds a bit different than the rest of the album and Roby and Danny had to go back in the studio to record their parts. However, we just felt adding this song was the right thing to do. So, I don’t think I consciously think differently when I play fast or slow. I think it is more of what is going on in my world at the time I sit down and record riffs.
Playing live is a totally different beast to studio work. How does your music work in a live environment?
-Being a 3 piece band definitely sacrifices some of the sound live. My song writing style is more suited for two guitars and you can hear it in songs like The Fourth Turning, Peace Through Violence, and Allegiance to Death among others. You can also hear it during some of the solos. However, because of our band forming with two members in Italy and one in Los Angeles, it was hard enough to get three people together let alone four or five. There is also some difficulty with Mike handling all the guitars and vocals too. We try and capture the aggression and anger in our music when we play live, but we also have to change things a little and there might even be some songs we choose not to play live. Fortunately Danny is an amazing bassist and he fills in much of the gaps where two guitars would fit.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? Are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans?
-Well, the music industry has changed quite a bit since I was first active in the mid-80s. “Label support” has changed over the years. I think there is a definite need to have some sort of help and promotion. While bands can make their own music in their bedroom, get CDs printed and upload mp3s to places like iTunes, Spotify, etc, it typically lacks a sense of professionalism. Mindwars is a perfect example. Our first release, The Enemy Within was done primarily on our own. Sure, Punishment 18 released it, but the recording producing, and mastering was done by the band. Consequently, it shows. Our second release Sworn to Secrecy (still with P18), was a step up from TEW. P18 gave us some money to help mix and produce and the overall quality was better. They helped get us get in some magazines with reviews and interviews and gave us a bunch of free copies to sell at shows, etc. Now, with Dissonance, Do Unto Others is being taken to a whole other level. They helped financially with the production. They improved on the artwork and logo. They are also provided us with a lot more promotion. So, there is a clear advantage to have a label provide this sort of help.
In terms of “music being too readily available to fans” is a result of the times we live in. The internet, social media, access to computers and software has increased at lightning pace. It’s good in some aspects because it allows more people to express themselves. However, the negative aspect of over saturation and diluting the overall quality of music is not a good thing. This is where I think labels can help present bands in a more professional light.
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
-It has always been very difficult for musicians to make a living playing music. At least this is true from a “rock ‘n’ roll” stand point. If someone reads and writes music fluently and plays multiple instruments there are definitely options in the music industry to earn a living. However, playing in a band, let alone a thrash band, the chances of making a living are much more difficult. With so many choices of music and bands to choose from, this makes it even more difficult. I still think you have a certain extent of “fan trueness”. This is part of the reason why you are seeing bands reform and playing live again. Bands like Dark Angel, Exciter, Diamond Head and others are back playing together after years of absence from the scene. Even bands like Atrophy and Sacred Reich are attracting large crowds. However, vast amount of music available at the click of a button makes it much more difficult for less known and smaller bands.
What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
-I have always thought an album cover as well as the music should convey a story. However, there have been a number of disastrous album covers, but great albums. Take Black Sabbath’s Sabotage. Sad Wings of Destiny is a great cover to me. It embodies struggle and torment. I also like the cover of Maiden’s first album. No one knew what to expect when they saw that. Bands like Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys seemed to match their lyrics and music with great covers too. I am not a fan of trying to shock people just for the sake of shocking. There are some really disturbing and grotesque covers, but I don’t see the need. Cannibal Corpse comes to mind when I think of “shocking” covers. However, my mind congers up much more darkness and horror when I think of the first Sabbath cover. That is a masterpiece.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? What is the climate for metal in your country?
-Personally I do not feel like I am a part of any scene, especially not in the US. The US seems to have little room for smaller underground bands. At least this is the case in Los Angeles. There is so much to do and the weather is always amazing in LA, that the average person has too many choices when it comes to going out on a Friday or Saturday night. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great fans in LA and there are a lot of hard working musicians and bands. There is a place in North Hollywood called Skinny’s, which features local bands and metal karaoke every Wednesday night. Skum Love is their promoter and he is an amazing guy. Roby hangs out at the Rainbow and The Whiskey in Hollywood and there is somewhat of a scene, but much of the music is cover songs. It’s not like the 80s when every other week you could see bands like Girlschool, Motorhead, Raven, Metallica, Motley Crue, WASP, Slayer, and dozens more playing. The big bands (i.e., Maiden, Priest, etc) still sell out large venues. Even bands like Kreator and Accept will fill smaller theaters.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
-I think music as we knew it is dead. I remember driving down to the local record store and looking for the latest album from a band I liked. I remember thumbing through the magazines for interviews and ads for a band’s next release. This aspect of music no longer exists. In fact buying a full album whether on vinyl or CD is almost non-existent too. Most if not all bands tend to have one or two filler songs on their albums. Now, people do not even need to buy those songs. You can listen to samples and buy music by the song if you want. It is the sign of the times. Instant gratification and instant stimulation is what people want. We as musicians need to understand this and embrace it. When Metallica fought against Napster, the writing was on the wall. Many bands held out against the digital revolution, but now Led Zeppelin and The Beatles even joined in. Fighting and complaining about the change in times is futile. I love having songs at my fingertips. There are times when I am sitting at my desk and have a craving to hear something and I might even turn to YouTube for a quick song fix. Criticizing and complaining about these changes only makes us sound like our parents and grandparents. We need to accept things as they change and think of creative ways to get our music out to the masses. I always believe that the good music makes it out to the right fans.
What lies in the future?
-I want to thank you for taking the time to reach out to me and letting me answer your questions. I am always humbled that people still follow Holy Terror after all these years and are accepting of my new band Mindwars. Our new album Do Unto Others will be out April 13, 2018 and we are planning a slot of shows in the fall. Thanks again! And remember, Speed Kills!