Seasons of the Wolf bring us back to the best days of true heavy metal. Back when we had Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and others of their ilk. Myths turned to songs and the black sheep of MTV (remember when they still played videos?) was the Headbanger's Ball. Their first full length, Lost In Hell is rising solidly and I've written that it was the "first metal album in nearly a decade that I truly love." Nocturnal Revelation, their next full length album, is just on the verge of release. I called them after finishing the Lost In Hellreview with the intentions of setting up an interview - so here is a little Q&A with the "last bastions of heavy metal."
1. First, I have to start by asking each of you to step up and tell everyone who you are and what it is you do.
Barry: Barry Waddell here. SOTW guitarist/producer and for the current time also promoter, booking agent, and head chief and bottle washer. hahaha
Dennis: Dennis Ristow the band keyboard player. Besides providing the keyboard & sound fx I engineer the computer recording of our albums.
Wes: Hey! I'm the vocalist and I write a good portion of lyrics too. I also sacrifice a virgin on stage, whenever I can find one. So that won't be anytime soon probably.
2. Is this the original crew that was Seasons of the Wolf 12 years ago?
Barry: Yeah the 3 of us started SOTW back in 1988 after the break-up of another band that Dennis and I were in called Equinox. Dennis and I worked together in a grocery store at the time. SOTW have had a couple bassist's and drummer line-up changes. But, Chris has been with us since 92 working on the road crew, filming shows, and whatever. He was right there ready to jump in the band when Phaedra decided to leave during the LIH recordings. Phaedra was with us on the first album. Wayne has been with us since 94. Even though we started with other members back in 88, SOTW never really felt solid until Phaedra came along in late 91. After that a couple years went by playing lots of shows and getting tight. Then Wayne finally came along and made the band complete and even tighter. six weeks later we started recording that first real SOTW album. It has not been all smooth sailing that's for sure.
Wes: Yeah back then I had just graduated high school. My voice was not really developed but I always wanted to sing and perform. Got the chance to jump in my brother's band when they were auditioning vocals. They had not yet chosen a new name. I remember giving Barry a ride to practice one night in the summer of 88. They were auditioning for lead vocals that night and there were some real freaks coming out of the woodwork. I spoke up and said I was interested in trying out. The rest is history.
3. Seasons of the Wolf has been playing since '88, heyday of metal. Not to embarrass you and really for you to explain to most of the garage bands of today why they shouldn't fart out the first power chord they play, why was your first release not out until eight years later, in 1996?
Barry: We really were not ready until 94 with the right line-up. We had plenty of songs and a couple cassette tapes out locally, but we just did not have the right line-up for a real pro recording until 94. Then it took 2 more years to finally get it released on our own terms. It's been a rough ride. The first album was recorded in late October 94. It took us till 96 to get it out. Nobody was there for us to help the push. Whenever someone would come along that seemed interested they always wanted to change things. Ya know like cut your hair or your too heavy or not heavy enough. We just said hell with them and their stinking money. When people buy a SOTW record, that is exactly what they are gonna get. 100% SOTW with no outside influences. It takes time to do things this way especially when your not born into money, and really don't know anyone in the business with any pull. Also, as you know, the particular kind of music we are creating has been ignored for the past decade. That has not made things any easier. But, I have to say that now we are on our 3rd record...things are definitely heading in the right direction. It seems that SOTW is finally reaching at least some cult status around the world and more people are stepping up to the plate to help out with distribution and networking. We have also gained a ton of knowledge about how to market ourselves. Finally we are creating demand. We just need to tour a lot now.
4. How are the sales and acceptance of Lost In Hell going?
Barry: Things have definitely picked up. LIH is our second album. It has gained us a good amount of attention in Europe this past summer. The company we have made a partnership and licensing deal with (Adrenaline Records) certainly has been a great help to spread the word and pick up distribution in Japan, South America, and all over Europe. New fans are going back and buying the first release which is hard to find right now. But they are finding it through many of the underground mail order companies we have serviced since 96. This 3rd record is very important for SOTW as it will give our fans faith that we are here to stay. And now we are developing a lot more avenues of distribution. Looks like we will be re-releasing the first album very soon in Europe on Adrenaline as well. And of course we plan to re-stock the first album for more US distribution. The sells of any album is really never over.
Dennis: Luckily most reviews are very positive. You can't please everyone, but many of the "bad reviews" can be judged by how they are worded and make you wonder if the person doing the review likes anything rock that's harder than Elton John. They criticize us and say things like "these guys suck" but don't explain what they don't like about us. Even a positive review might say they wished the guitar was this or the keyboards were that but when they express a criticism they explain it instead of just saying we suck. I can take criticism but I'll ignore the critics that don't make a point.
5. Another while, four years or so, until the full release of Lost In Hell. And the time spent on the release shows exquisitely if you ask me. Now tell us, you have another album finished as we speak and are just putting together the artwork. Release set for early 2001 if I remember correctly and title set as Nocturnal Revelation. Tell us what this next album is like?
Barry: Better. Hahaha... We love all our songs, but this recording and sound quality is just awesome compared to the first record and LIH. We have learned a great deal about the recording and production process in our own studio. We have made our own mistakes and learned from them. It is fun to see and hear the progress. The overall feel of Nocturnal Revelation is in your face Power Metal but with the New Age twists and a Dark, Goth Sci-fi touch. We have always loved horror and sci-fi fantasy movies and the music soundtracks used with them. These are the ingredients that always seem to end up making the SOTW edge. That plus the lyrics we spend a lot of time on. Thought provoking type subjects. We have a couple more rebellious songs on this one about the current status of the music industry. New Age Revolution is the title of one of them.
Wes: I am very excited about releasing this new album. I feel that it's heavier not only in sound but the subject matter hits harder and most definitely darker. As well as Dennis and Barry learning allot more about the recording and production process, I feel that I have learned more about my voice within the studio, and just gained more strength in general. I think it was a wise decision to quit smoking cigarettes for one. I know that I have more control over my breathing now, and that definitely helps with getting a good push behind whatever lyric I'm about to belt out.
Dennis: Like Barry said we are basically more experienced than we were on the last album. Our sound is really becoming a meld of New Age & Metal. As computers keep getting faster it becomes almost a full time job to keep up with them and I would like to incorporate them into our live shows someday. In a couple of years who knows how far New Age/Metal will progress. Maybe there will be a way that the live music can interact with audience feedback & emotion in a way that they would control to some degree the intensity & emotion of the lights and sound mix in some predefined way that we would play off of.
6. Just how do you expect to top Lost In Hell with this release?
Barry: I believe that every album we record will top the last one. At least for a while. We have not run out of good ideas and passion like some other bands that I won't mention out of respect. Hopefully the same thing will not happen to SOTW that happens to so many bands after about 4 or 5 releases. Nocturnal Revelation I feel very strong about. I think that many of the current SOTW fans will love it. I also believe that we will pick up a larger Goth crowd simply because of some of the subject matter and overall atmospheric darkness happening in the sound.
Wes: If every album doesn't top the next one, I would hope it would at least be complementary to the last, and we would of course make every effort to make that so. But I have no doubt that this one tops the last. I can feel it like the anticipation of an anvil before the hammer falls.
Dennis: We think we've topped it. Hopefully so will the rest of the world.
7. Any experimentation in other styles or methods of song creation? Will we maybe, as one example, see a more electronic song or two on the next album? Or will you stick to the heavy metal sound you do now?
Barry: Yeah sure... The song Quilex has some electronic influence in the middle break and some very heavy synth leads. Nocturnal Revelation is definitely a dark, progressive trip into the future of metal sounds. We are using some of that distorted filter-type vocal approach in Magnetic Star. Not over used to the point where the vocals are out of context with the song though. Lots of cool samples that Dennis has created that sync well with rhythm structures. Very futuristic.
Dennis: Each song has a life of it's own. It seems to go where it wants to and we just try to put our stamp on it. Our style comes out no matter whether it's fast or mid-tempo, very heavy or more melodic. With few exceptions there isn't much we don't listen to. From classical to metal to straight ahead rock to new age/soundtrack type stuff. Since we all like those styles, you never know what will come from where. Even though I start playing a "heavy" sound Barry might suggest a string sound or some other soft pad to compliment the distorted guitar of the speed riff or whatever. That kind of interplay of ideas is what gives the songs our personal sound.
Wes: I can't begin to describe the different little creative forces at work in most every song on this album. That's why I believe this one tops the last. Every song is injected with either some strange alien juice or some dark primordial ooze of mystery.
8. Is there any particular way you build/create a new song? A rhythm first, lyrics later, or other type of style you find works best for you?
Barry: Each SOTW song happens a different way. Many of them happen from a guitar riff I have been toying around with for a few months while tuning my guitar. Some are inspired at practice from the drummer warming up doing some cool beat we all just start jamming with. Sometimes we write lyrics and melody lines first and then fit music to that. Whatever works. My brother Wes usually ends up writing a good portion of the lyrics. Dennis teams up with him sometimes. For some reason I seem to come up with more of the chorus line and bridge lyrics. We record a lot of stuff on a crappy recorder and then start breaking it down later if necessary.
Wes: I personally love it when the other guys are just messing around and then something starts to come out of it. I start pacing the floor just waiting for the music to inspire just the right lyrics to jot down on paper so I can jump in the next time they take it from the top.
9. After this next release, you've said you expect to spend a while touring thereafter. Any plans yet?
Barry: We are still yet to see a more proper booking agent interested in helping with that situation here in the USA. We will be working on that. Adrenaline Records will help us in our tour for Europe. Much loose ends to work out, but for sure in 2001 live shows are what we are going to concentrate on. We will do it all ourselves at first and take it from there just like we always have. We have quite a few good contacts that will help us out up in the New England States through the many college radio programs that have supported SOTW over the past couple of years. We will keep our fingers crossed that there is a song or 2 from Nocturnal Revelation that has the sort of extra snowballing when people here it. Create that demand needed.
Dennis: We're all keeping our fingers crossed. If things keep going in the right direction then we will be playing out a lot in 2001.
Wes: I can't wait to take it to the road. Especially now with the material we have at this point, but can't get so excited so as to not prepare wisely and have things set up properly, and tie up all those loose ends. We have worked hard in our area on the Florida west coast playing as many decent live shows as possible over the past years. It's just not happening for our brand of music here. Sure we have a few hundred die hard fans roaming the local area with T-shirts and tattoo's, but our international fan mail list blows that away. We can easily appease them with a couple of shows spread in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and over to Orlando. It is a shame that we can't just hop on a plane or bus and have everything happen. It's like a cult springing up all over the planet. But, like my brother said the demand must be larger. This is what a third album out there working properly for us could do, and we feel real good about that.
10. I've already heard the live track, Land of the Dead, that you placed on Lost In Hell, and your capabilities at playing as well live as in studio are not in question. But metal and progressive bands of your genre are very well known for their stage shows. Iron Maiden, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd - all of them are heavy into pyrotechnics, laser lights, various stunts and tricks onstage to give the crowd an amazing experience. What about Seasons? What can a crowd expect from metal's last bastion in a live environment?
Barry: We hope to be able to create enough demand to do even better shows than ever seen before on stage. And that will be something to achieve. Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, Kiss, and several others have done just about everything imaginable. But even they could not afford to do those kind of shows until after 3 or 4 records were out on the shelves. Also they had huge major label support for those kind of tours. We have to go on what people have said after a SOTW show. It is very expensive to compete these days when "live show" attendance is low for just about everyone. Dio just released a new album this past year. He was asked about a huge stage show for it. His reply was "If there is enough demand and the money is there to afford it." So far most say that we are intense on stage. My brother and I do a lot of moving around. We come on really strong and can get pretty outta control by the last few songs. We love using lots of color and special effect lights to enhance the energy and atmosphere of the songs. We do some pyro, and lots of smoke depending on the venue. I occasionally have been known to bring out a cheap NJ series B.C. Rich guitar on the last song and destroy it. It's been done before I know...but I have my own special way of destroying a cheap piece of shit guitar. Hahaha
Dennis: I wish we could go out on the road tomorrow with a few semi's full of gear & audience numbing tricks. Maybe with a little luck we'll do those things. Until we can, all we can do is work towards that goal. We've been told that up until our last release that we hadn't yet captured our live energy on recordings. From now on I hope to have the best of both live & studio sounds.
Wes: Well hopefully each time if all goes well, a crowd can expect the unexpected. That's always the best. As far as a show goes I like to change wardrobe allot, something to go along with the atmosphere of the song you know along with the proper stage props and garb. It puts me right there in the world where each song takes you, and hopefully that effects the audience and takes them there too. I, at this point don't have an extensive wardrobe but that's all to do with the dough you know. Hey, if you come to one our shows and you think you know something I might like throw it up on the stage, I'd surely be happy with that. In fact I was thinking of maybe coming on stage bare ass naked and just having all the metal girls, and goth babes dress me up. I guess that could be dangerous though and the guys in the audience might not appreciate that too much. I guess I'll save the surprises to my hand held flashes and other little goodies I might drag out on to the stage in my bag of tricks. I like handing out some treats along with my tricks too however. I've always wanted to be Santa Clause & the Easter Bunny together on Halloween in Wolves clothing. I love to hear the scream of anticipation for what gifts I might have in my Halloween basket.
11. Metal's last bastion - let's revisit that once again. There are virtually no metal bands left creating new work - at least none that are as good as the days past. Seasons of the Wolf is the first I've found in years worth it and I stand by my statement of Lost in Hell being "the best metal album I have heard in a decade" in my recent review of it. Why did you stay with this genre and music style even though it looks like it seems to be "done," so to speak? Why not try one of the more listened to genres of the day, i.e. alternative, grunge, etc.?
Barry: Well, Marcus thanks for the compliments about LIH. We damn sure appreciate that. It always helps to have that reinforcement. That is exactly what LIH has given to SOTW since its release last year. Reinforcement. In my opinion nothing is really ever finished. Sure, the basic elements of what SOTW is doing is developed out of influences from great bands from the past 3 decades of metal. Especially more from bands of the late 60's, 70's, and early 80's as far as the Metal edge and New Age goes. When I say New Age I mean "Tangerine Dream." But, anyway....now and then a band comes along and has that certain edge and style that takes a sound to another level. I believe SOTW has this quality. We are not trying to sound like Iron Maiden, or Black Sabbath, or Pink Floyd. We just write songs. Sometimes if a particular one of our songs starts sounding too much like something else we have heard before we throw it out. Unless its just to cool...hahahaha.... Trying new stuff is always open. But, Hip Hop, Country, and Rap metal are definitely not our cup of tea.
Dennis: Like the old saying goes, "there's nothing new under the sun." Once in a while a totally unique way of presenting a sound will come along but that's very rare. I don't know who first intentionally used distortion but it wasn't Trent Reznor. He just was very creative with it and the first punk band was not Green Day. Boyz to Men remind me a lot of the old Mo-Town harmonies and the new boy bands like N'sync might remind some one of the old Osmond Family or Jackson 5. You have talent in dance, voice and most importantly marketing. There will always be a generation of teenage girls that will go nuts for the right balance of these things. Just like teenage boys are full of angst and are pissed off at the way they are treated or just want to piss off their parents. That's why they listen to what ever music is intense and pumps them up whether that's metal, grunge, punk, goth or any combination of them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Alternative or Grunge is just the sound of the 90's that is already becoming yesterday. By exploring an established style like metal that obviously is not a "flash in the pan" we might just find a new way to present it and become the next "new" thing by accident.
Wes: Well I'd have to say that I did really didn't choose this style of music, it chose me and I love it and I am faithful to it cause I love it.
12. The Internet and entities such as MP3.com and Riffage.com have seemed to be a boon for independent and near-independent artists today. The promotions available with the Web are amazing. Do you take advantage of this or do you still tend to enjoy paper-based or more conventional forms of promotion?
Barry: I personally love a good laid out paper music magazine. Something about picking up a print magazine with pictures of SOTW or any other of my favorite bands and touching it and seeing it. Hahahaha. But, The Internet is the way things are going to go. And , I believe it is very much helping Independents compete with the major labels on a world scale with video, radio, buying, selling, trading, sex...yeah...Sex... Life, Death, everything. Soon we will have automated cash registers in grocery stores, and Robot Security guards. Hahaha Less and less people are going out to large shows like in the past. Now they can get the best seat on the Internet and not get slammed in a mosh pit or stabbed in the back or trampled in a pool of mud. They can get totally blown out of their mind and not have to drive. The world of information is now at anyone's finger tips that owns a computer. Technology in recording is hurting large recording studios. The last 4 major record labels will have to enforce as many laws as they can pay for to keep the Independents at bay. Hahahaha You know that is already happening. We are living in a time of the NEW AGE REVOLUTION. I'm not saying that some people won't go to shows. It's just that more time and expertise will be spent by Independents to record a good live show and then many people will be able to watch it for a price. Bands will not have to go on extensive tours unless they want to. Just a handful of shows in a few large cites recorded well for video, pro-packaged, advertised and made available by any means necessary. It's already been happening. Most bands that are popular these days can't play a live show worth a crap! SOTW is gonna take full advantage of every angle we possibly can to defy the system of the major labels. If we need to use them we will...but it's gonna have to be one hell of a peachy deal for us. We have become somewhat rebellious against the system that has blown way out of control of the masses. There are tons of good prog metal bands with 3 or 4 albums out just like SOTW that have never been given a chance by the system in recent years. To many buy outs. To much corporate money controlling what gets heard on radio and t.v. At this time they are even trying to take public broadcasting away. Unfortunately through all of this....the growing pains seem to be making music very disposable. We have to find new ways to overcome this in order to survive.
Wes: Yes , we do definitely take advantage of the Internet. Since 1996 when we first launched our web page each year the Internet has grown by millions. It makes the entire personal communication with fans thing much faster. This coming year after the holidays there will be another huge surge of Internet users. You bet we will be there to greet the metal heads and anyone else that may become interested in our music.
13. Where are Seasons of the Wolf releases available for purchase?
Barry: All the online stores such as Amazon, Cdnow, TWEC.com, CDuniverse, CDworld, and the list goes on. Also LIH is available through the catalogs in almost every major chain store. Unfortunately it takes a heavy demand to prove to the "buyers" at large corporate chains to get the release actually in the store on the display shelf, with huge glossy posters and advertisement campaigns. People have to go to the counter and order SOTW through the catalog. But at least SOTW is in there. We have many corporate chains that are slowly starting to get it on the shelf. That is what the biggest problem is for most of the Independents. Getting a release into store stock. A huge demand has to be created. The major labels have always controlled that situation with large aggressive hands through radio, TV, and corporate magazines. But, now things are changing. Independents are seeping in by the thousands and creating a demand. Majors are not liking it. We have even put into action a small in store campaign by sending out advertisement to store management one at a time. Some of them ignore it and throw it in the trash. But, sometimes a particular metalhead store manager may take an interest and order in the product. We spend most of our time promoting and trying to create a demand. We really would just like to "TOUR," hahaha.
14. How would fans contact you for more information? Is there a particular method, i.e. e-mail over a mailed letter, that you prefer?
Barry: Up close and personal. We love to get letters in the mail. E-mail is fine, but it's great to have personal letters come in our mail box. We keep all of the letters we receive and respond back quickly and personally. We will do this for as long as we can handle it. We have added over 7000 people to our mailing list in the past 3 years, and it continues to grow. This is how we stay in touch with the people that are interested in SOTW. This is another reason we know that the next album will sell more than the first 2 and pick up more sells on the first 2. The first album was the beginning. When LIH came out we tripled that. When Nocturnal Revelation hits the mailing list and starts getting into circulation we know we will have ten times the amount of new names!! Maybe we can handle it all? I don't know, but we sure are gonna give it a shot. Hahahaha... But, please do try contacting us anytime! And thank you again Marcus for giving us an opportunity to share some of our story with your readers. Many people that are into Gothic lifestyles seem to have taking a liking to SOTW over the past few years. There is something going on in our music that is attracting to those that appreciate dark atmosphere. We would love to hear from some of your readers.
Dennis: I'm almost hoping in some ways that we can't handle it on our own. Up until now we've had to do basically everything to get to where we are. If we get too big to be able to handle the promotion, distribution and manufacturing then maybe it's because we are on the road touring. It would be nice to be too much to handle. Hahaha
Wes: One way that I definitely would enjoy, and this is via the Internet, is a chat room where fans can hang out and chat with members of the band. Had a chatroom at one time within our website but I am at this time creating a chatroom in AOL's Timesquare, since AOL is a very large, and still growing Internet community I thought that this might work even better. So if you are reading this and have access, try hooking up in the chatroom with other fans of Seasons Of The Wolf and perhaps one of us will pop into the room. At this time I will be appearing as none other than SeasonsOfTheWolf. Since I am a creature of night the best time to catch me in there would be between Midnight and 5:00 in the morning Eastern Time.