Every so often I visit Youtube to listen to music. By chance I came by OBSIDIAN SHELL. What I heard tickled a fancy. So to get to know more about them I had to interview them. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
I only found out about Obsidian Shell through searching Youtube. What kind of story is there behind the band?
-The story started in 2006 when Alexandra joined our high school band. The other guys were more into parties and we were more into music, long story short, we formed our new band named Obsidian Shell. Things didn’t really change anyway as I kept writing all the material, Alexandra sang and Gerg? played the bass at live shows (yeah, all two of them) and contributed in two or so songs with some ideas.
I understand that you’ve recently gone through some major changes. What can you tell us about this?
-Two left, two came. Sophie applied at facebook, Kleó, as my girlfriend, started as some emergency back-up plan but she turned out quite good, she just needed to practice and have some confidence. The work has been more divided as the ladies now write almost complete songs so I can finally take a break too… not to mention they tell me instantly if they don’t like something, not a week before the release… or after…
Where do you draw inspiration from in order to set you apart from all other metal bands out there? How do avoid sounding like a million other bands?
-It all comes from heart, or soul or whatever. Sad truth is I practically stopped listening to new music two or three years ago, I just couldn’t really find what satisfies me perfectly. It’s kind of the “if you can’t find it, make it” story. I couldn’t even find anything that sounds really close to OS. So well, I don’t really follow the major music industry standards. It’s rule #1 of originality.
How hard is it to come up with song structures, titles and lyrics to have something new to present to your audience?
-Given that I don’t idolize other bands or even really care about them (light plus side of being antisocial), it’s another thing that’s not intentional. I have an idea, try to make a song of it, but again, I mainly make music for myself. It’s just a really good coincidence that other people like it too. Sometimes I borrow some riffs or ideas when some band makes a 99% great song but there is something that bugs me and I redo that particular idea in my song to fit my taste, that’s obviously not new, hehe. But I never claimed to be a “true” metalhead, I’m just an artist, a musician whose main instrument is the guitar. I even like dubstep and trance, that’s no secret. Lyrics are another funny story: while there are absolutely “normal” and meaningful lyrics, I love writing pure nonsense. I’ve been asked several times “what’s this song about?” and I often replied “it’s about me doing night duty being bored and writing random stuff down”. It’s probably because I’ve never been too interested in lyrics, I’m absolutely a melodic type. I still have no idea what many of my favourite songs’ lyrics are.
I often wonder where the use of a more operatic female voice in metal comes from. What is your guess? Where does the idea to use more operatic vocals in metal come from?
-I joined the metal scene as a listener by the early Nightwish in 2002. For me that was THE operatic vocals in metal and as I don’t follow today’s music I don’t even know other bands using operatic vocals. Oh well, earlier Therion (from “Theli” to “Secret of the Runes” for example) is great too but female parts there are more for colouring the whole picture I think. Even Alexandra’s singing was more popular-ish than operatic.
Your music is only available as downloads. Why is that?
-Money, money, money. While we’re not actually poor and I thank whatever deity or instinct lead me to the national railway (yeah, I’m a train driver, guess I’m just a step behind Bruce Dickinson being a metalhead pilot, LOL) instead of the university as I make more than any of my friends with a degree (remember, we’re in Hungary), money is still being an issue. I know that lots of online distribution sites offer physical releases too but I don’t really see a point in someone buying an album for what, 15 EUR and the artist making 3-4 EUR of it. And again, I couldn’t care less about sales, the few bucks we get, mostly from donations, I reinvest into music so we could pretty much call ourselves a non-profit band.
Do you see a danger in digital downloads contributing to killing the music industry? What are your take on this whole digital downloading that is going on today?
-Any music you buy WILL end up being an MP3 or FLAC file eventually. You put it on your phone, your portable music player, send it to a friend over MSN messenger or whatever it’s called today. CD’s are great for bragging and putting the cases on the shelf but that’s all. Very few people have a decent HI-FI system that would profit from a physical CD. The only thing bugging me is that almost all stores offer lossy formats only (and not even top quality!), that’s unacceptable. In the age when some people has more space on their phones than I have on my hard disks, and when you can download 600 megabytes in 10 minutes with your phone? Come on people. By the way, these at most keep MUSIC alive and killing the INDUSTRY. The one that makes prefab crap you can hear on the radio. Don’t see where the problem is in that.
How do you avoid being just a “15 minute fame” band and actually make it in the “real” metal world too?
-First step is not caring about fame. I guess I make original music and that attracts people, even if in low rates. The second is not really true for us I guess. Real metal world is about gigs and we’re so far from a live that unless this holographic stuff gets really serious we’ll not going to be on stage with OS, not with this line-up anyway. I have work where my schedule is pretty much random (no free Friday nights, or Saturdays, or even Christmas eve for that matter), Sophie has a family with two little kids and Kleó’s aiming for a PhD so she’s studying her ass off. And we’d still need a drummer, bassist, keyboardist etc. I’d put the inventor if the internet in my prayers if I was a believer because really, without it, my only chance to get my music listened to would be being dead for a hundred years and having someone find my CD’s I made during my life.
How easy is it to be tricked into thinking that you have a larger following than is actually true by counting all “like” and whatever you get online?
-I don’t even follow how many likes we have. That’s just a number. Funny fact: every time I make an announcement on facebook (so I post on the news feed) our likes DECREASE by 1-2 that makes me think people pressed like but they couldn’t care less about us. There are some constant fans and followers who keep writing on our wall, in the shoutbox and even sending a few bucks as donation sometimes and those are who really count as followers. My friend “bought” about 10000 likes by advertising on facebook in the Middle East (1 cents per click or so) but he never got a buck of sales or donations. So yeah, absolutely great question.
What is the best way still today in building a following?
-Heh, you’re asking the wrong person about that. I’ve tried advertising on facebook three or four times, in countries where I thought my music will be appreciated, not just “liked” (the facebook way) and that seems to be a good way but that either costs tons of money or takes ages. Being reasonable in pricing and having a fair distribution model also helped a lot as people seem to love the fact that they can download the album for free LEGALLY but they can purchase a copy for three different prices depending how much they are willing to give for it, if they want to support us. Lots of people use our songs for their videos on youtube, and even an indie game developer group put some of our songs in their game. I guess without a manager and lots of money you can’t keep up with the classic CD selling industry, especially not in our country, especially when you’re almost on your own. But one thing is sure: I like it the way it is right now. I have no doubts that we could have been signed by a record label but then I’d have to sell my albums for a price I wouldn’t pay for music.