Some bands are just cult. MYTHRA being just that. Having been around in people’s minds for ages it is now time for them to release their first proper album. Answers by John Roach. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
You have a new album coming. What can we expect from this new one?
-Still Burning is the first proper album Mythra have released. All of the other releases have been compilations of the early recordings and demos and the Warriors of Time Anthology on SkolRecords in 2015 contained 5 new tracks recorded in 2015. Still Burning on High Roller Records contains 12 new recordings from a session in CK studios in Czestochowa in October 2016. The songs are true to us and reflect where we are both musically and lyrically. There are meaningful lyrics, pounding rhythms, driving bass and powerful guitars. Other than that it’s great….. hahaha
You have one of these names that tell me that some thought has been involved in the choice. How hard was it to come up with the name?
-It was quite easy, we had feedback from our previous name – Zarathustra – that it was too long and difficult to say. We wanted a name that was memorable and short but which we could be confident wasn’t already being used. It’s well documented that our name comes from the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism (Zoroaster is Greek for Zarathustra – keeping the link to the previous name). In 1978 – 79 there was a lot of protesting in Iran about the Shah and there were a lot of Iranian people living in the North East of England – either as students or as Naval Officers in the Shipyards where I worked as an apprentice, so I had quite a few Iranian friends. I was fascinated by the role of Iran (or Persia as it used to be) in history and became interested in the development of organized religionand how there were common threads to most popular religions. This coincided with my discovery of the Dune books (particularly Dune Messiah) by Frank Herbert, which might explain my interest. I came across the Zoroastrian deity Mithras and liked the sound of the word, by dropping the ‘S’ and adding the ‘Y’ instead of the ‘I’ – there it was. The rest of the guys liked it and it stuck. I’ve since found that other bands have used this name but none of them released a record as early as 1979. Hahaha.
The competition is a killer these days. Is there anything great in that the competition is so hard or is it just a bother that people have to wade through so much “not so good” stuff to get to you guys?
-That’s a really good question. You could say that there is so much competition or music out there that it is really hard for people to check everyone out, so recommendation from friends becomes key. With social media, the easy access to recording time via software and band self-releases then there is even more choice for audiences. Competition for that audience is great, we would love the attention that we first got in 1979 but in today’s climate it is unreasonable to expect that. I think we’re quite lucky, we have a back story that a lot of people are familiar with plus the pedigree, four original band members in the line-up helps.
Do you notice that there anticipation for you to release an album? Have you built a large enough following over the years for people to eagerly await a new album?
-There has been a fantastic response to the new album, from the social media. From the news that we had signed to High Roller Records and were going to record an album in Poland with Bart Gabriel as the Producer to the anticipation of the release and the reviews in advance of the release. We are genuinely surprised that we can reach an audience as wide as we do. If I’m honest some people have been eagerly awaiting a new Mythra album for 38 years… hahahaha ….let’s hope they don’t have to wait as long for another one.
When you started the band did you do so with a clear intent of what kind of music you wanted to play? How hard was it to come up with a sound all your own?
-We always wanted to play heavy rock music. We all liked the same bands and at first we wanted to play the songs we liked. At first our ability was limited so the songs we could play were also limited. As we progressed we learned to play more complex songs and arrangements for example Killing Yourself to live and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Sabbath but the simple No Class – Motorhead, Lights Out and Too Hot To Handle – UFO, Another Piece of Meat – Scorpions and Thin Lizzy covers became staple songs in our early live shows. We tried to sound like the records when we learned these songs and failed miserably – which is the Mythra sound. We didn’t come up with the Mythra sound, it found us! I am still surprised that we have an identifiable sound – age and better equipment have made no difference at all – I guess the sound is in the attitude.
Something I have often wondered about is if you feel that you are part of something bigger and greater when you play in a band, that you are part of a movement sort of?
-This is very interesting, In Mythra there is a companionship, a brotherhood, that we all feel when we are together. It is a combined strength –the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Now we feel this collectively as Mythra – but here is the killer – we feel it even more with the audience. When the Mythra Crowd are connected at a gig everything seems bigger and better. Audiences choose bands to follow, they can be influenced by trends and journalists but, ultimately there has to be a connection between the band and the audience. There needs to be an honesty and integrity to it. It is the audience that makes the show the band is simply the catalyst.Audience appreciation and crowd reaction makes us play better, go further, try harder, which can lead to increased audience and crowd reaction. It can build and build. We are very proud that we can experience being a part of something like that. It is truly magical.
When you play the sort of music you play do you feel that you can have whatever you like as art work for the cover of your album? What is a great album cover to you?
-I think that album cover artwork is an important part of the whole band-album package. In the case of ‘Still Burning’ we wanted to continue to use the original Death and Destiny ‘Eagle’ that became a ‘Phoenix’ on the cover of Warriors of Time: The Anthology. We wanted to use the Phoenix to represent Mythraas it feels like this is what we have become – a greater, stronger Mythra has risen from the ashes of the old. For me, a great album cover should be recognizable and give an insight into the band and a guide to the content of the album. We’re very lucky to have been able to use Roberto Toderico for both the Warriors of Time and Still Burning albums. We all love his work. An example of a great album cover is Sabbath Bloody Sabbath– I can look at it for ages…. I love the complexity of the two images. Without explanation the concept is up to the viewer.
I have a great fear that the change in how people consume music today will eventually kill music as we know it. What is your opinion on digital verses physical? Is digital killing music?
-Controversy has always been at the heart of this one. I first became a bootlegger when a recorded my mates Brain Salad Surgery onto a four track reel to reel I got as a present when I was younger. I also used to record from the radio and television. This wasn’t mass consumption but the artists didn’t get any royalties from me. Later I got a cassette recorder and the tape collection really took off. I can remember the Napster file sharing debate and thought it would open up the music business and destroy the almost stifling grip that the major record companies had on what was and wasn’t released or promoted. I thought that the good stuff would always rise to the top. I didn’t fully understand that the crap would create so much noise that it would be difficult for the good stuff to be even discovered, let alone rise to the top. Now, anyone with access to a pc and a £100.00 sound card can make an album – the filter is gone. The record company monopoly seems like a good thing in retrospect. They created the need for alternative labels – now the purpose for alternative labels is to help audiences discover bands they might like out of all of the stuff available.
Another way to think of music is as something you own, you invest in – you can hold the album, cd or cassette. You can be confident that you have invested in the future of the band and the label. Who knows, you may even see the value of the product increase – look at how much some collectors are paying for rare releases. Digital downloads and streaming are like paying rent. You haven’t invested in the product you have just made the landlord,the streaming provider,richer. I would like to think that people will one day realize that they have bought a product several times but still don’t own it. I don’t think digital downloads will ever have a resale value. But lastly, piracy or stealing…….. I’m frightened to let you know my thoughts on that……
Is the era of great arena tours as thing of yester? What kind live scene is there for bands like yours? What does the touring circuit look like today?
-Well we haven’t actually toured with Mythraso it wouldn’t be fair to comment, however some things don’t change, the buy-on situation for support slots is still the same, we’ve been asked to pay to play! The festival circuit is great for bands like us we can reach a mixed audience converting people to our music who wouldn’t ordinarily come to see us. We have gained a lot of young fans this way. Now in the 1960s the review tour was popular great bands travelling together from city to city on tour. It would be great if someone could set up a touring festival – I bet that would sell out a few arenas.
When you play live is it a happening or do you see it more as a party?
-We see it as an event, something that we need to build on show to show. We need to demonstrate that we are moving forward as performers, we were out of the game for such a long time. Initially I think a lot of the audience come to see us as they thought they might never get the chance,and in that, I think they were very forgiving. Now that we have been around for a few years we hope to give the audience a memorable experience so that they want to come back and see us again and again. It is really important that the crowd is with us. Vince is a great performer and involves the crowd as we build the show. Small clubs or large halls – it is the audience that makes the show. So we have some fast and furious riffing which can fire an audience up and then some slower songs to provoke a thoughtful response and back to the fast and the furious. We don’t actually choreograph our shows but we do plan them. There is always time to party after the show and anyone who has been to one of our shows will recognize us in the audience after the show.
What would you like to see the future bring?
-Over the last few years we have had the opportunity and great fortune to play some great venues and to meet some fantastic people. We would like to continue to do that and we would love to record another album to show that we are still relevant today.