Spiritual Beggars spread their blues all over the world

It mustn’t be easy to keep such a project like Spiritual Beggars alive, when all members are involved elsewhere, and even more when the band’s guitarist and composer, as well as the bass player, play in one of the most popular and active melodic death metal bands: Arch Enemy. As Michael Amott stated it to us in 2010, it was the reason of the big gap between Demons and Return To Zero. Now, as Sharlee D’Angelo underlines it, they finally managed to organize themselves. The result? Earth Blues which is released « only » three years after its predecessor.

What might have made things easy this time too is that Apollo Papathanasio has had the time to get used to the band, to feel more comfortable in it by being involved in the composition process. The result is very convincing, like always with Spiritual Beggars, and paths the way for a 70’s stoner rock, full of soul, fun and mastery. A genre that seems to live inside the heart of each musician, like Sharlee D’Angelo confirms it in the following interview.

(About Apollo Papathanasio) « Things weren’t going well for him with Firewind […]. It’s good for us, because he’s free now. It’s positive ! (laughs) »

Radio Metal: Return To Zero came out five years after Demons, whereas this new album took you two years and a half. Was it important this time to release a new album more quickly?

Sharlee D’Angelo (bass): Yes, basically, we tried to take half as much time than for the last record ! We’ll see if you’ll have another record in a year! (laughs) Timing was there, we had new songs, everybody’s schedules seemed to fit well together, so we did it. When you have a long break, like we did, between Demons and Return To Zero, it’s difficult to start something up again, but as we’ve been quite active, the lapse of time between writing songs and releasing the album wasn’t that big.

In 2010, Michael Amott told us that the five years of waiting before Return To Zero was mainly due to the fact that it was hard to organize the band since the members in the band hardly had some free time because of their main acts. Would you say that this time you have better anticipated this for Earth Blues?

I think so, yes. In between Demons and Return To Zero, so many things happened for everybody and their respective bands. We sort of kept that in mind, a little bit, because we know how things work now. Organizing everything is a relief for us: you have to get everybody scheduled straight, you know.

Earth Blues is the second album with Apollo as a singer. Did you feel a change compared to the first one? Would you say he feels, maybe, more comfortable in the band ?

Apollo has played a lot of shows with us, so he feels a lot more comfortable in his role now. The material, on Return To Zero, was written before Apollo joined us, therefore he had to adapt himself, whereas when we started to write the new record, we knew who was going to sing, so it made things easier for him: you can hear it, I think. Apollo has improved 100 % this time.

We learned not long ago that Apollo left his other band, Firewind. Do you think that this has, either directly or indirectly, anything to do with Spiritual Beggars?

No, not really. Things weren’t going well for him with Firewind, so I don’t think it has anything to do with Spiritual Beggars. It’s good for us, because he’s free now. It’s positive! (laughs)

The album is called Earth Blues and the artwork represents a naked man and a naked woman holding their hands while facing a gigantic mushroom cloud. It looks like a very pessimistic album at first: however, the music is filled with good feelings. How do you connect the two ?

Well, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s an underlying theme in the lyrics, even though it has some connection with some of them, for instance the song “Turn The Tide”. It’s a sort of a process of questioning: “Is it too late ? Is there a possibility for change ?” The original idea for the album cover came from Michael, who had the image of the old, typical 70’s poster that everyone had in his bedroom. The mushroom cloud came from the 70’s too: the cold war was raging and the atomic threat was present. Recently, this monster has raised his ugly head again: a lot of countries have now nuclear weapons and this menace is more valid than it has been a long time ago. The cover, without over analyzing it too much, has the most beautiful thing in life, love, and on the same picture, the most horrible there can be: the end of everything.

Return To Zero was released in an environmental friendly package. This time, with the album’s title and artwork you seem to be very concerned by the state of our planet. Is it important to make people aware of this?

It’s always good to raise questions. We’re mainly here to entertain, but if we can make people aware of certain things, it’s cool. Again, we’re not really the kind of preaching band, but there are issues that are important to us.

« My earliest musical influences definitely take root in the 70’s music where hard rock comes. […] This music is in my blood : it’s just that when I started playing, I found some interest in the more extreme side of music. »

There is a cover song called “Dreamer” by an artist called Bobby Bland: this choice is not very obvious. Can you tell us more about this song and this artist?

Well, Whitesnake covered one of Bobby Bland’s songs: “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City”. He’s been a favourite of us for a long time and we decided to do a cover just to have something for a bonus track. But it turned out so well that we decided to include it on the album. It’s something we haven’t really done before in a long time. We all love the song.

Apparently, the songs’ basic parts were recorded live. What decided the band to return to this recording process ?

We just felt that it suited the kind of material that we had, and that it was right to keep the energy in the songs. There are many ways to record an album these days, but the best way to have the feeling of a band playing together is actually doing it. It seemed to be a wise choice because it sounds very good that way.

Does this mean that the composition process was also more intuitive this time? How would you compare it to Return To Zero?

I think it was more spontaneous because Return To Zero was done over a long period of time. For Earth Blues, we only had two years to get stuff together. One year for getting pieces of material together, jamming and rehearsing and then we decided that it was time to record something.

The sound of the album is very natural and Michael says you guys avoided to make it perfect in order to not suck its soul out. Is this recording and production something that could also be done with a band like Arch Enemy or do you think it would only suit a band like Spiritual Beggars ?

It would be more difficult for a band like Arch Enemy and it wouldn’t turn out so well, because you have to be accurate with this band if you want that things come up well when recording an album. Playing extreme metal is a complete different thing so I wouldn’t say that it would be the best method for Arch Enemy.

Between Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars or The Night Flight Orchestra, it looks like you’re doing the splits. Does that actually allow you to change or refresh your mind?

It does very much so. The whole idea behind doing this is that you have different sides to your music. Arch Enemy is my main thing but it’s good to take a break from it to refresh myself. Doing this before starting to write new songs is like taking a musical vacation, like rediscovering things about your playing or song writing.

You’re also a member of The Night Flight Orchestra which can be very much compared to Spiritual Beggars for their common classic rock vibes. Do we have to understand that it’s actually in classic rock that we can find your own roots and not necessarily in death metal?

My earliest musical influences definitely take root in the 70’s music where hard rock comes, you know. I grew up listening to anything from Deep Purple to Rainbow, Uriah Heep or Thin Lizzy. This music is in my blood : it’s just that when I started playing, I found some interest in the more extreme side of music. But one day, the “classic rock and metal” side began to creep again inside my playing, and it feels just natural playing it. Joining the Spiritual Beggars was very beneficial as well. The Night Flight Orchestra differs from Spiritual Beggars in the sense that it’s not as heavy, as hard: it’s more rock than hard rock actually. It’s interesting to do two different things, you know: playing the music you love is fun but also playing with different people, because you learn a lot of them. It’s a great way to hanging out with them !

« Arch Enemy is my main thing but it’s good to take a break from it to refresh myself. »

Considering the fact that Arch Enemy’s music is filled with imposing guitars, do you find more space to express yourself as a bass player in bands like Spiritual Beggars and The Night Flight Orchestra ?

Yes, I think, but in a different way. In Arch Enemy, you accentuate some things more as you play the most extreme side of metal. The instrumentation and the songs are not all that dense: there is more space and air than what people might think. Of course, it’s sometimes tricky, as you have to do your thing without sounding like absolute crap! (laughs) Nonetheless, it’s a more relaxed way of playing because I don’t have to think too much. Physically, it’s a lot easier.

Earlier this year, we spoke with Bjorn Strid from Soilwork and he told us that the second Night Flight Orchestra album was on its way and that David Andersson said to him that he had already written the full album. Do you have more news about that?

No, because that’s basically what David told me too. It’s a matter of timing because Soilwork’s just released an album and are going on tour. So, whenever everybody’s free and can do it, we’ll go for it. This time, it’ll be easier. For the first record, I was asked sometime around the end of 2008 if I’d be interested in doing something like that. I said yes and the first rehearsal took place during the summer of 2009. The next rehearsal was in Christmas 2009 and then we rehearsed again in January 2011. It was extremely difficult to get people together. Since we now know how to do things, it’ll be less difficult this time.

Will you guys have the time to record it this year?

I don’t know. It depends on Soilwork’s touring schedule. Mine won’t be that bad, because most of the year will be spent writing and recording Arch Enemy‘s new record. If we have the time, I’ll definitely be there. It’s really up to them: we’ll see.

Talking about Arch Enemy’s new record, do you have any songs done yet or ideas for Khaos Legions’ follow up?

Some songs are shaped up but we have tons of ideas: we try to see what we can do with them. Michael is in the USA with Nick right now to see what they can come up with. We’ll start writing and rehearsing this summer, then decide for a studio date so as to record the album. I’m not sure when the album will come out: maybe sometime next year.

Arch Enemy’s got a new guitarist, Nick Cordle: what will be his implication in the writing of the new record ?

Mick and Christoffer are two different songwriters. It’s always good to get a breath of fresh air: I’m excited about that. As Nick comes from a completely different background, it’ll be interesting to see where this takes us.

Interview conducted by phone on March 19th, 2013
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Spiritual Beggars on Facebook: www.facebook.com/spiritualbeggarsofficial

Album Earth Blues out since April 15th, 2013 via InsideOut Music

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