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PRESTO BALLET (KURDT VANDERHOOF)

YOU’RE KNOWN AS THE GUITAR-PLAYER AND THE CREATIVE MASTERMIND OF METAL CHURCH. NOW YOU BROUGHT OUT YOUR OWN PROJECT PRESTO BALLET. WOULD YOU SAY A DREAM HAS COME TRUE, BECAUSE THIS IS OBVIOUSLY THE KIND OF MUSIC YOU LOVE? Yeah, absolutely! It’s definitely a labour of love by all means. To have it come out already. I mean, it was recorded periodically over the past three or four years. And it was basically done just kind of for ourselves, you know, the guys in the band. And the fact that it’s coming out, and now being so well-received is… We’re pretty much overwhelmed by all. We didn’t really expect it to happen, so… (laughs) It’s pretty exciting. RIGHT, BECAUSE IF YOU BROUGHT OUT AN ALBUM LIKE THAT TEN OR FIFTEEN YEARS AGO – IT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNIMAGINABLE. THE FANS WOULD HAVE CRUCIFIED YOU FOR BRINGING OUT A RECORD WITH SYNTHESIZERS AND ORGANS ON IT. DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO BRING OUT AN ALBUM LIKE THAT A DECADE AGO? WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT? I don’t know. I mean, I probably would have had to do it with the same intention as I did. Again, it was done without even thinking about if it was gonna sell, if there was a market for it, or if anybody would even like it. You know, none of us really over-thought it. We didn’t think about it. We just liked using the real sounds. We wanted to use the real ones and we wanted to emulate that style of music. So, I don’t know if it would have been any different. Really, I don’t know whether they would have been that well-received as well… it was hard to say. But I’m sure the approach would have been the same. YOU BASICALLY WROTE ALL THE MUSIC AND YOU PLAYED A LOT OF THE INSTRUMENTS, INCLUDING THE PIANO, THE HAMMOND AND THE MELLOTRON. WHERE DID YOU FIND ALL THESE INSTRUMENTS? MELLOTRONS ARE QUITE UNUSUAL IN TODAY’S MUSIC SCENE… I’ve been collecting them over the years. Yeah, so it’s like: I better figure out some way to use ‚em! (laughs) No, actually, because I love the sound of those things and just wanted to kind of… before they all disappear completely. You know, I have a pretty good vintage guitar collection, and so I started collecting all these old instruments right about the time I was doing the Vanderhoof project, cause I really love the sounds, and I didn’t wanna use the sampled versions. I definitely wanted to have the real ones. So I just started scavenging around for them and finding them wherever I could. And my favourite one is the Mellotron, just because it’s just such a piece of machinery that’s just classic. You know, just the way it plays tapes. Oh, it’s just a really cool contraption. So, that really kind of started the whole thing. And there is nothing like a real Hammond. I mean, there is a lot of fakes, there’s a lot of digital samples and all that kind of stuff. But nothing sounds like a real one at all. So, we had to use the real thing and record it all on tape. BUT STILL… WHERE WOULD YOU FIND A MELLOTRON?! CHECKING THE INTERNET OR WHAT DID YOU DO? Well, you can find ‚em periodically on the internet, but what happened is that I found one and through that, trying to find parts for it, I found a little circle of us that kind of are still into that kind of thing. We became like a little small group of people – a bunch of Mellotron freaks. So everybody is like: „So, what number of Mellotron do you have?“, because they only made x-amount of them. So everybody kinda knows which number, like „this guy has this one and this guy has this one“. Yeah, so it’s kind of a sub-culture! (laughs) A bunch of gear freaks. HOW MANY INSTRUMENTS DO YOU HAVE ALTOGETHER? LIKE YOU JUST SAID, YOU OWN A VINTAGE GUITAR COLLECTION, PLUS LOTS OF STRING INSTRUMENTS… I’ve got about 13 guitars and got the synths and stuff. I don’t know, but I have a recording studio where we make all the records and stuff. So I just keep ‚em all there and use it for the recording, so I just (chuckles) fill it up with gear. I just have a bunch, like piles of stuff, you know. Cause I like: „We need this kind of sound!“, „Ok… here it is!“ Pull it out, you know. Rather than punch it up on a button. So just to kinda keep it as real as possible. SO IT’S NOT TO THE DEGREE LIKE SOMEONE AS YNGWIE MALMSTEEN WHO HAS ABOUT 300 GUITARS?! No, but if I ever get enough money I will. (laughs) If I ever make enough money to have that many guitars I absolutely will! Cause it’s fun, I mean, anybody who plays guitar and plays music, you know, you have to… well, a lot of ‚em too, because they are pieces of art, a lot of ‚em. And they have different sounds and different feels. They are just cool! PRESTO BALLET IS VERY 70S ORIENTED. AND THE VANDERHOOF PROJECT IS KIND OF IN THE SAME VEIN… Right! Presto Ballet is definitely an off-shoot of the Vanderhoof stuff. It’s kind of the Vanderhoof thing kind of on steroids, kind of taking it down and taking it up a couple more notches up to where it’s even like more over-the-top. So, yeah, it’s definitely an extension of that as well, where the Vanderhoof stuff is just more straight melodic rock. And then the Presto Ballet stuff is obviously more on the progressive direction. So, yeah, it has definitely more grown out of that. WILL YOU CONTINUE WITH VANDERHOOF AS WELL? OR IS IT GONNA BE SOMETHING LIKE A TRINITY IN THE FUTURE: METAL CHURCH, VANDERHOOF AND PRESTO BALLET? I hope to be able to always just make those records, cause it’s nice having that kind of outlet, too. But yeah, Presto Ballet is definitely gonna be making more records – time allowing. Metal Church is pretty…, you know, taking up a lot of my time at the moment, but, yeah, a lot is gonna depend on how the record does. I mean, It just came out today, so… we’ll see! If I get a chance to tour with that I absolutely will! We’d love to. I mean, everybody in the band is just really excited about it, the fact that it’s even coming out. We’re getting great reviews and everybody is just really excited. So if we get a chance to really take it out there, we’re absolutely gonna do it! I’VE READ A FEW REVIEWS ON THE INTERNET AS WELL, AND SOME OF THEM SAID SOMETHING LIKE: „PLEASE, KURDT – KEEP GOING WITH PRESTO BALLET AND PUT METAL CHURCH TO REST!!“ Yeah, yeah, I saw that, too! But you got the other side, too, like: „Yeah, that’s cool. But I hope he doesn’t give that up for Metal Church!“ So it depends on what camp you’re talking to. WOULD THAT EVEN BE POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO DROP ONE OF THE TWO BANDS? OR IS IT SOMETHING LIKE A YIN-YANG THING TO YOU? Absolutely! (laughs) Absolutely! Yeah, it depends on who you talk to. So, hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to be able to do both. Just keep myself busy making music, and that’s kind of the whole idea, you know, and being able to just make enough music as possible in all different kinds. To have that kind of creative outlet is great, and I want to be able to continue to do that. God knows, maybe I’ll come up with some other weird idea, do a record like that. I don’t know what it would be, but… some country-cabbage-research-punk or something. (laughs) I JUST WANTED TO ASK…. ARE THERE ANY MORE SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET, MUSICALLY? Probably! I don’t know, maybe I haven’t opened that door yet. But I don’t know. There might be, who knows? I mean, that’s kind of half the fun. So, who knows? But I think with Presto that’s a huge outlet that can cover a whole bunch of desires musically to do. Because it’s a temple, I could go in all kinds of different directions. That’s why I’m really excited about it, you know. Where in metal you have a certain framework to work from to keep it metal. And I totally understand that, as it should be, and I’m all for that. You know, that should be that. I don’t want to start bringing this in, because then Metal Church would change and it would all be something completely… nobody would get it! So, you know, it’s fine to have metal, have this – and then over here it’s this! WHEN I WENT THROUGH MY OLD METAL CHURCH RECORDS A FEW DAYS AGO, I REALIZED THAT TERRY DATE MIXED YOUR DEBUT ALBUM IN 1984. HAVE YOU BEEN FOLLOWING HIS CAREER AS A PRODUCER? Oh yeah, we watched his career go like this: (imitates a rocket), while we were: (makes a gesture of a plane crashing). It was like. Great! (laughs) Yeah, Terry was just the staff guy at the Steve Austin production when we worked with him. That was his first real record. IT WAS?! THAT’S WHAT I FIGURED, THAT THIS MUST HAVE BEEN ONE OF HIS VERY FIRST JOBS, CAUSE HE’S NOT THAT OLD, YET. Right, exactly! We went into the studio, the studio that was there, the one we kinda had heard and looked into. We said. „Ok, that’s affordable and we could do it!“ He was just the staff guy there. Yeah, check it out, and then he goes: (another gesture of going through the roof). But he’s a great guy and he worked really hard for it and he totally deserves it. but it was just kinda funny watching him take off as we went down. (laughs again) WOULD YOU PUT IT THAT WAY? THAT YOU WENT DOWN? Oh yeah, Metal Church certainly absolutely did. I mean, we started off like that, and then we had the, you, know, the line-up changes. AND YOU TOURED WITH METALLICA AFTER YOUR FIRST ALBUM… Yeah, that was huge. We were doing great. But then we’d have the line-up changes, but that did very well and we continued the band. But then it was basically being from Seattle, and he climate and the industry changed. You know, metal wasn’t all that cool anymore, and there were some bad decisions, bad management, the label wasn’t interested, and all those kind of things. So the band kinda like… (another plane crash gesture). CAN YOU REMEMBER THE WORST BUSINESS DECISION IN THE PAST 20 YEARS WHICH MADE THE ROAD A LITTLE ROCKIER FOR YOU? Yeah, when we first signed our first contract with Electra, our manager at the time who put out the album, the first album on Ground Zero records, you know, our own independent label, when we signed our first major deal, we were told that the contract had been negotiated and it was good to sign. It turned out it wasn’t and we signed just a straight flat contract. So, that really hurt us down the road a few years later. Cause the band started taking off, and we weren’t getting any of our royalties. It was just like: „Oh, you’re frickin‘ kiddin‘ me!“ So that was like the first one, the beginning of it. Yeah, and then near the end – even though I was out of the band at that time – they left Epic records to go to an independent label, and the guy who owned the independent label was managing the band and it was just… didn’t work! You know, it was just one of those things: bad business decisions! That was one of the real bad ones. ESPECIALLY AFTER „THE DARK“ WHICH WAS HIGHLY ACCLAIMED AS WELL, IT SHOULD HAVE WORKED OUT FOR YOU A BIT BETTER… Yeah, right. It just didn’t, you know. Just a lot of internal troubles, you know, changing line-ups and then a lot of bad business going on, too. One of those things you just try to avoid, but some of it you just can’t, you know. HAS THERE BEEN A CRITICAL POINT AS AN ACTIVE MUSICIAN WHERE YOU THOUGHT: „FUCK THIS! I’M DONE! I’M GONNA BE A PRODUCER FOR 70S PROGROCK IN THE FUTURE?“ I didn’t think about doing the 70 prog thing, but definitely that’s one of the main reasons why I left the band after „The Dark“. Cause after we did the record it was our first, my first experience doing a real album with a producer, with a budget and to really dig in, and to see how you make real records. Where, with the first album we just went in there and basically did it in ten days and played live. And we got lucky! Got really lucky!! But then after doing „The Dark“ it was like: „Ohhh, I get it!“ And suddenly I was just like: I have to learn how to do this! I really wanna learn how to make records and produce and engineer. And that whole process became the most interesting thing. It became more important to me than the live thing. And just getting behind the scenes and doing song-writing and doing that, and the production aspect of it was much more important to me at that point. ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SONGS IS THE ALBUM CLOSER „BRINGIN‘ IT ON“ – I ACTUALLY LOVE THAT SONG -. BUT I ALSO REALIZED THAT PEOPLE EITHER LOVE OR HATE THAT SONG. WHAT DO YOU PUT THAT DOWN TO? WHY IS IT THAT POLARIZING? So far the most responses I’ve gotten: everybody likes that one or „Find the time“, which is like a Led Zeppelin-meets-Golden Earring type of song. I don’t know. I think, maybe just because it’s the kind of music that isn’t… It was done completely from a point of… from the heart that we were feeling. And it wasn’t done with any kind of intentions. It wasn’t trying to please anybody but ourselves. I think that might bring it to the point where some people just don’t like it. You know, and that’s fine. But I think that’s kind of why it wasn’t made to appease anybody other than ourselves. But fortunately, I think through that a lot of people seem to be really enjoying it, so… So that’s the most important thing. THAT WAS PRETTY MUCH THE SONG THAT GOT STUCK IN MY MIND IMMEDIATELY. AND THEN I HAD TO READ: „ALLRIGHT… THE ALBUM IS GREAT, BUT THE LAST SONG IS THE ABSOLUTE LOW POINT OF THE RECORD!“ AND I WAS LIKE: „WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!!?“ And some people will say, it’s the high point of the record! So, that’s always fun. It’s like, obviously somebody is getting it, you know. KURDT, YOU’RE LIKE THE MASTERMIND BEHIND THE MUSIC. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU LIKE TO STAY IN CONTROL WITH EVERYTHING, SOMEONE LIKE JEFF WATERS? Well, no! It’s certainly not a control issue. Definitely on the next Presto record there is gonna be a lot of collaboration. I prefer to collaborate. I much prefer it. But sometimes, whatever situation I may be working in, nobody else has the time to contribute or something, so…I’m writing all the time, I’m always writing stuff. And that’s how I spend my day if I’m not recording or producing somebody else. So there is always music available. So: „Hey, it’s all right here – so let’s use it! So, but definitely now that Presto is taking a life of it’s own, there definitely is gonna be a lot more collaboration. Scott Albright wrote the majority of the lyrics except for two songs which I wrote. But the rest of it, he wrote the lyrics for it, so… And like I said, I prefer to collaborate, but sometimes the opportunity just isn’t there, you know. No, I’m not a control freak! (laughs) At least I don’t know, maybe I am, I don’t know. But I don’t mean to be… (laughs)

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