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(Interview from Sweden)
Whenever Canada is mentioned in terms of heavy metal nothing much is being said. Bands like Triumph, Helix, Razor, Exciter, Sword, Bachman Turner Overdrive or Rush have had varied degrees of success outside of Canada but lets face it, when was the last time you got really excited over a new Canadian heavy metal band. I know when my appetite was wet last time over a Canadian metal band. Simply because I have them here for you to discover. Thunder Rider are not an easy one to describe. It’s like an amalgamation of everything that’s been done metal-wise over the last 25 years, without it sounding contrived or dated, or even that scariest of the scary words; Pretentious. I got hold of John Blackwing to tell me more about Thunder Rider.
Where did the initial idea to start Thunder Rider come from?
-Thunder Rider was started, I’m sure, in much the same way as hundreds if not thousands of other bands, just for fun. We never thought about recording or making a living with it; all these things came with time when we realised that we had something worth working with.
Where do you draw inspiration from, and what is it about the source/s that is so inspirational?
- Life and living in this crazy world are all the inspiration I need. Every day something happens in this world that is worthy of our attention. All you have to do is read the newspaper or watch the news on television and the ideas start to flow like a river to the sea.
Listening to “Chapter II” I couldn’t help feeling that there’s more thought put into one single song than on most other albums. Have you found the secret formula to good song writing or do you struggle like hell just to finish one song?
- I think that song writing in the case of Thunder Rider is an evolutionary process, it seems like things just fall into place. The only effort we insist on is an honest attempt to make it sound original. If it reminds us of something else we’ve heard, we change it, we play it backwards or upside-down or inside out. I hate it when you hear a song that is successful and it sounds like a complete rip-off of another great song. I understand that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but I believe there are limitations.
Lyrically there seems to be a concept involving good and evil. Is life a constant battle between black and white?
- I believe the decisions we make every day are weighed on this delicate balance. Every one in this world has free will, so the choice is between right and wrong or good and evil or darkness and light. Call it what you will, the choice is ours and ours only. We can blame no one and nothing for our fortune or misfortune.
“Destiny is yours,
The helm is within your scope,
You hold the key to what’s in store,
Set sail upon the sea of hope.”
This quote is from the song For Christ’s Sake on our debut CD.
There’s an illustration for each title. How did you go about picking the illustration that best matched the title/context?
- I didn’t pick them; the process was a little more elaborate than that. I was very fortunate to find ten incredibly talented artists who were willing to help us out. I gave every artist their choice of the recorded songs and the lyrics to study. I then asked them to draw, paint or photograph how they felt or what they imagined when they listened to the music and read the lyrics. In some cases, I gave them a little direction. For the most part, they amazed me with the ideas they came up with.
Everything about “Chapter II” seems so well thought through except for the front cover. Is there an intentional context to the front cover?
- The intention is to introduce life. After all, the basis of life, as we know it, is water.
Looking through the booklet there are no photos, or even surnames. How important is it to the concept of Thunder Rider to keep an air of mystery?
- Our surnames are all there….Blackwing, Dufresne, Lacourse, etc… Mystery breads interest, how intrigued are you when you hear something and you can’t see where it’s coming from? Maybe people will be so intrigued that they will attend one of our shows not only to hear our music but also to see what we look like.
The whole packaging, from production to the music to the cover is superior to some releases from bands on bigger labels. Do you think you could have done “Chapter II” this way had you been signed to a label, or is there per automation a greater freedom not being restrained by label politics?
- I don’t think so. Judging from what everyone is saying after they receive our CD, no one has ever gone to this extent. We really wanted to show our fans how much we appreciate them. After all, we are nothing without our fans.
By releasing an album by yourself you automatically face the problem of reaching all the potential buyers. How have you gone a bout to overcome that obstacle in order to reach the highest number of interested heavy metal fans?
- The magic word is Internet. Years ago, to be able to reach as many people as we are reaching now through the internet, we would have had to do mass mailings and place ads in all kinds of magazines or newspapers. This would have cost us a fortune and taken forever. Now, with the click of a mouse, we can open the window to let anyone who cares to know about Thunder Rider.
“Tales Of Darkness And Light – Chapter II” is as the title says Thunder Rider’s second album. What kind of responses did you receive after the first album and how did that affect the way you went about creating the second chapter?
- The response initially was pretty good, but since we have released Chapter II, we have sold out our debut. Most of the material that appears on both albums was written in the same time period. In fact, when we released our debut we had enough solid material to record three albums. Unfortunately, circumstance has only allowed us to continue recording recently.
In a World of music today that seem to be more about instant gratification than longevity, what do you have to say to those who find Thunder Rider’s music too intricate and meandering?
- I was taught to find something you love doing and then do it to the best of your ability. Sooner or later someone will find what you’re doing interesting and that interest will grow, as long as you grow with it. We all love the music we’re creating and we’re trying to do it to the best of our ability. Some people will love what we do and others will hate it. If we please ourselves, it’s inevitable that we will eventually please others, but we can’t please everyone and stay true to ourselves.
How much of an issue is it to Thunder Rider that Canada doesn’t have much of an international heavy metal history to fall back on?
- I don’t think it’s an issue at all. We always knew that our style would be more appealing to a European audience. Although we have fans all over the world, in places that we never would have imagined, our biggest fan bases are in Germany and Greece, and according to them we are a unique Canadian band.
On the back of “Chapter II” it says that the album was engineered by the professors and students at Musictechnic. Did Thunder Rider start out as some sort of undergraduate project?
- When we decided to record Chapter II we had everything we needed, except the money. Musictechnic is a well renowned recording arts school in Montreal that regularly recruits local talent to help in the training of their students. Then the process begins: we start with some drum microphone placement exercises, then some guitar amp cabinet microphone placement exercises, and so on and so forth. Then we do some recording sessions and some mixing sessions. All this to say that Thunder Rider is very proud to have been involved in supporting the next generation of Canadian recording engineers and technicians.