Anton of STARSCAPE quick-fire interview

The NWOTHM Youtube channel is surely throwing lots of new bands into the spotlight these days, and Starscape’s Pilgrim EP is one of those videos that caught my attention recently. Was I really hearing gutsy vocals over Iron Maiden themes, mixed with spacey prog? We talk to band founder Anton to find out what’s going on….

Hi lads, can you briefly describe who you are?

Hi Scott! We’re Starscape from Sweden and we play heavy metal in what could be described as the classic or traditional style. The current line up consists of me (Anton Eriksson) and Per-Olof Göransson. I handle all instruments and Per-Olof handles the vocals. We’ve been active since 2015 but just had our first proper release: our debut EP “Pilgrims”.

Pilgrim is a strong release, with accomplished guitarwork…what are your musical backgrounds? Did you both study music formally?

Thank you! I’m self-taught as a guitarist and I’ve read up on some rudimentary music theory, but that’s it. Per-Olof is by far the more accomplished musician in the band. He studied music in high school and has a firm grounding in theory, which is a great asset for Starscape. He is also a phenomenal guitarist, which is something you can hear for yourself in his other band Gamli Roth, which is a progressive metal band.

Who designed the cover and came up with the name? What are the lyrics about? Is there any particular concept for the band?

There is indeed a concept behind the band. Lyrically, as well as musically, Starscape aims to stir up the same kind of mood or atmosphere in the listener that the notion of space does. What I mean by this is that there is a sense of awe, mystery and dread about the thought of an infinite universe, and we try to conjure up those feelings in our music and lyrics. More particularly, the lyrics form part of a story about a celestial journey in which mankind attempts to find a new home among the stars. 

I came up with the name Starscape, which means a view of stars. I think it neatly sums up the concept behind the band, as our (limited) view of stars is like a window for us to peek through and which excites us, but also leaves us wondering and feeling slightly uneasy about what might be out there in the darkness.

The cover for “Pilgrims” was designed by me, but the cover art was painted by Don Davis and commissioned by NASA.

I guess there are two melodic frameworks for metal bands, those who go the Iron Maiden route, and those that go Black Sabbath – you are clearly the former, but who else is in there? Am I really hearing Mercyful Fate?

Maiden is certainly a big influence, but so are some of the bands that inspired them in the first place, like Wishbone Ash and UFO. Generally, we’re influenced by a lot of the classic heavy metal and hard rock bands of the 70’s and the 80’s, among them Mercyful Fate. However, I can’t remember if there is a particular riff or passage directly inspired by them. We’re also inspired by other genres of music, like progressive rock and classical music, even though this might be more easily heard in our newer, yet to be heard material.

I can hear you are using sequenced drums. Any plans for live performances? If so, would you use a real drummer?

Good observation, mate! I think many listeners have assumed that I play the drums, when they are in fact programmed. I do know how to play drums, and this was my main instrument for many years, but we’ve opted to use programmed drums so far out of convenience. 

There are no concrete plans for putting a live band together at the moment, but we have been discussing this a bit. We’ll see what the future holds. If we were to play live we would definitely use a human drummer.

Congratulations on finding some synth sounds I’ve not heard before…

Thanks, mate! We basically aimed for some 70’s-style heavy organ á la Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. I’m not sure where that left us, though.

I have a lot of respect for bands that use an interesting vocal style, and I think the vocals in Starscape fit really well. You alternate shouting pitched vocals with low, clean, choral voices. To my ears that sound usually comes from East and Central European pagan metal bands from the 90s. What’s going on? 😉

I’m glad you like the vocals! I also think they fit the music very well. We used Paul Di’Anno’s work with early Maiden as a general reference point. His vocals are quite rough and amateurish in a sense that we thought would suit the music. I also know that some Per-Olof’s parts with harsher vocals were inspired by the vocals in hardcore music.

Your approach reminds me a little of the early work by English heathen metal band FOREFATHER….

I cannot say that I’m familiar with Forefather. I’ll have to check that out.

Are you part of any Swedish scene? Obviously traditional heavy metal is huge there. Any bands we should check out?

No, I can’t say that we’re part of any scene. While there are many Swedish bands doing the so-called traditional style of metal, few of them accomplish anything of lasting value. My number one recommendation would be Portrait. 

Any plans for physical releases, either yourself or finding a label?

Yes, we would love to have a physical release out there. We’ve been in contact with some labels recently and hopefully something will come of that.

Do you think that streaming your EP on NWOTHM youtube channel was useful for you? Does it make people more or less likely to buy a physical release?

Yes, that was a great way for us to reach out to new listeners! Anderson is a true champion of new metal music. For a band of our size, I think there are only things to gain from being on the channel. The listeners who will eventually end up buying our stuff would probably not have heard of us if it wasn’t for digital services like the NWOTHM Full Albums Channel.

I ask everyone this – are you music equipment nerds?

I can only speak for myself here, but I’m definitely no “gearhead”. I honestly couldn’t tell you what model my guitar is without looking at it first. They’re called ‘instruments’ for a reason, namely that they are tools with which to create music. Some people appear to treat their musical instruments as ends in themselves. I just don’t get that.

Commissioned by NASA, now that’s an endorsement.

Best and worst things about being in a band?

The best thing is that it provides you with a natural outlet for creativity. I love composing music and conceptualizing new themes for lyrics. One downside of being in a band, however, is that since you care so much about the music you make together, there is a tendency to get into conflicts about creative choices. Compromising about your art is a painful, albeit essential, part of being in a band.

What plans do you have for Starscape?

First of all, we want to focus on finishing the recording of our debut full length album, as well as release it. All the material has been written and most of the album is already recorded. The album will be a continuation of the themes introduced on the EP.

Second, we are going to focus on writing new songs for a second album. This process is already well under way and I would say that roughly half of the music has been written. 

I’ll leave the last words to you….

Thank you Scott for the interview! If any of you who is reading this haven’t already, you should check out our EP “Pilgrims”. Stay tuned for news about our debut album, and always: keep watching the starscape..

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