Well, the album was great so what better chance of talking to Michael Kammeyer, the main composer of PYRAMAZE, for "Melancholy Beast" and various other things concerning the band. From my anxiety since this was my first phoner, Michael proved to be one hell of a friendly guy. Enjoy the interview. |
Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer to my questions. Congratulations for this magnificent album.
Michael: Thank you very much.
It was really amazing. I think it has been two weeks that the album has been released. How are the sales so far or how are the people responding to it?
Michael: The response has been very good. We have no sales number yet. It is too early for that, record labels don't release those for like three months time, but we are getting very positive reactions from the media and from the fans from all over the world so we are very pleased with that.
Yes, while I was preparing for the interview I have checked all the reviews on the website and it is amazing how positive people have accepted the album. Does this mean anything for you on the matter of that is a recognition for your work and talent?
Michael: Oh Yeah, I mean it is always very flattering to get good reviews and I am very happy to hear that the media likes the music, so of course that is very great and I feel very honored about that, but also all the media people have all these different tastes, so if any band reviews come in, I mean this is just the way it is, you know? But I am very happy about the positive reactions, so that is great.
It is simply amazing to see so many "Album Of The Month" or even "Album Of The Year" titles and I also wanted to ask you. Does this make you a bit nervous or anxious on what are you going to do next, after 'Melancholy Beast'?
Michael: Well yes, of course, it is putting a bit pressure on me you know, because now that the first album has been gaining very good reviews, I have to make a second album that will be at least just as good. I am quite convinced I can do that, but it is the media people and the fans that have to judge. So, of course, it is a little bit pressure for the second album, that is true.
From the first look at the lengths of the songs that mostly are 6 minutes someone might think that PYRAMAZE is a progressive metal band. This is what I expected myself since I haven't heard anything from you before. However I was stunned by the straightforward sounds and melodies on the album that are a form of purest metal. I would characterize "Melancholy Beast"' as a pure metal album with some really minor complex parts, would you agree on that and was that your intention?
Michael: Yes, I will partly agree with that. My intention was to make melodic metal or melodic epic metal and the fact that some of it sounds very hard, some of it sounds power metal and some of it sounds progressive metal, makes me think it is a good mix. I just wanted the sound to be very raw that is why I picked the producer Jacob Hansen because he is normally making the music or the sound for much harder bands than us. So, I was trying to be melodic epic metal but with a bit more raw sound.
Tell me if I am wrong, but since you wrote all the songs, it seems to me that all of them are based mostly on guitar riffs and guitar melodies. Is that the case and what was the process you took when you composed the songs for "Melancholy Beast"?
Michael: Yes, when I write my music I start out with my guitar just doing the riffs, doing all the rhythm and then I move on to doing the guitar harmonies and then the guitar solos. So yes, the songs are very guitar based but once we get together and do the rehearsing then the other guys they have some input, too. So, if we take a song like 'Power Of Imagination' and I come with a finish product then maybe Niels our bass player would say: 'Maybe we should try to do these and these parts', so I am always open to add a bit here and there, to get all the other aspects of instruments come forward too. So it is not like I write the songs and I say this is just the way it is, take it or leave it. I am always open to suggestions from the rest of the band when I finish the songs. So, we arrange the guitar bass for the start and we always add a little bit of all the other instruments later.
So the arrangements are made by the whole band not just from you.
Michael: Yes the final arrangements are made by the whole band, I just basically come with the melodies and all that stuff.
Another magnificent thing on this album was the vocal melodies. I guess Lance King was responsible for those, right?
Michael: Actually I wrote all the vocal melodies to begin with, because I wanted to do the vocals myself. But when we were on the studio to record the album, we basically ran out of studio time and I had to re-bid the studio in order to do the vocals, and before that happened Intromental Management got a hold on the music and they fell totally in love with it. Since Intromental has a lot of great contacts all over the world to great singers they basically decided to find a pro singer that could sing the stuff better than me. So, we have sent the material to Lance after he agreed to become a part of this and because Lance has a completely different vibe than me I just told him: 'Ok, just go ahead and sing my lyrics the way you want to' and basically every other night we have some phone conference where he was singing the parts he made out for me, and I was like 'We can use this and we can use that' but it was like half of it turned out to be the way I did. So I would say the finished product is 80% Lance's vocal melodies and 20% my own.
What is the difference between PYRAMAZE and your former band DAMIEN, musically mostly?
Michael: I would say that PYRAMAZE is definitely more melodic and a whole better than DAMIEN. The DAMIEN days were like, it was a demo band you know, we were trying to move forward but nothing really happened so I quit the band. In the DAMIEN days I was singing and I was doing the rhythm guitar and basically over time we started taking different directions concerning our music, the DAMIEN guys wanted to do a more death/black metal music and I was moving even more to the melodic metal music direction, so it was just time to leave.
And it was also the fact that you didn't get enough attention outside the borders of Denmark?
Michael: Yes exactly. We didn't get enough attention and we just didn't fit together anymore, so in the end that is the reason why I left.
What about the influences? Do you take a lot of them in mind or try to avoid them as much as possible just in case you fall into some trap of copy some kind of music or song?
Michael: Well, I haven't really any influence I know about when I write the songs, of course there are lots of bands I really enjoy listening to. I mean I listen to bands like BLIND GUARDIAN, ICED EARTH, STRATOVARIUS and stuff like that and I guess it can be heard on the music that they are my favorite bands. But of course, I never try to copy any exact style when I write, I just write what I like to play. So that is basically how the songs are written. I just start with the riff and then I go on and when the whole song is finished on the guitar I start writing the lyrics that could fit, the music or the melody.
So, it took you a long time to compose all the songs for "Melancholy Beast"'?
Michael: I would say half a year.
Oh, quite a long time huh?
Michael: Yes, I mean two of the songs were the reason why it took me half a year, because the rest of the material was written in four months, it was very intensive and those two songs took two months, so yes I would say half a year.
Since we are talking about the influence thing, and I cannot distinguish any actual influences. It seems to me that "Melancholy Beast" is a perfect marriage between the sounds of Europe and USA. Does this have anything to do with having two band members on the line up from the United States?
Michael: Well, yes, it might because Lance's style of singing is very US metal like, also because he is from America he has a very nice accent. Many European bands when they sing English, you can hear that they are from Europe. It is very obvious that Lance is from the US on the singing and I think both Lance and Jonah have been caught up with the American style, so I think yes, you can hear a bit of US metal in there.
You mentioned Jonah and this is my next question. When he joined the band he wasn't living in Denmark if I am not mistaken. How hard was it, especially on the start of the band with Jonah Weingarten being away and later also with Lance King?
Michael: Well, it took a little bit to get used to. I met Jonah over the internet. He had made an advertisement and he just got back from Australia when he was working with another band and it didn't work out that good. I was planning to create PYRAMAZE, so I contacted with him and basically what I did is all the music I have written - I went into a studio here in Denmark with Marten that plays the drums and Niels on the bass - and we just made a live recording of the songs and we sent those to Jonah and this live recording was enough for him to start composing the keyboard parts. And so we did it the same way with Lance, we had phone conferences every other night to keep track of the involvement and to exchange ideas. As soon as Jonah's parts were in place we just booked the studio and he flew to Denmark. That is the way we did it.
Do you think that internet bands, were people are from different places in the world can work? I mean FATES WARNING did it even before the outbreak of the internet, but do you think such bands can exist?
Michael: Yeah sure. I even think that they have a better chance of existing because I think the members of the bands they tend to get hired of the company you know. It is like, we don't see each other too often so it is like when we get together it is like brothers that haven't seen each other for a long time. We really have a good time, play a good show and just hang out and have fun. I believe that the fact that we don't see each other too often is a good thing. It gives us space and we can concentrate on the show when they come here, so I think it is good.
I have noticed on your biography that you enjoy very much classic movie theme soundtracks. Call me crazy but I sense on some really minor parts on "Melancholy Beast" that these have influenced you a lot. Am I right on that?
Michael: Oh well. I don't really know what to say (laughs). It is not intentional you know, I didn't compose the songs based on influence from movie themes. So, if there is any comparison it is a coincidence.
No, it is just sometimes that especially melodies, guitar melodies and some solos do remind me of movie themes, that is why I am asking you that.
Michael: Ok. Well, I haven't heard that before but you might be right on about that.
So, which are your personal favorite soundtracks and maybe composers?
Michael: Oh, I would say the soundtracks to all "The Lord Of The Rings" movies, the soundtrack to "Play Hard", the soundtrack to "Willow", and also the soundtrack to the "Alien" movies. I enjoy those very much. I would say that I like all the good composers like Howard Shore and...
Michael: Yeah exactly. They are fantastic.
You have told me about working with Jacob Hansen. How much has he helped you on building the sound of PYRAMAZE which I must say to you is quite unique.
Michael: Well, I can definitely thank him for the rawness of the sound, because we laid out the guitars four times. This was his idea and we used some really good amplifiers, two different amplifiers. Basically he is good at making it raw, and I think this album has become tough, not just melodic and clean. For becoming tough, yes I can thank him for that.
I am sure that after this successful release you will be able to tour, maybe from September.
Michael: Oh yes yes, we are. We have a mini tour in Europe, we start out in Denmark, then we go to Germany and then to France. So, it is a mini tour, five days that is what we have planned for now. We might do some more touring in the fall or in the winter but it is all still on the planning board.
So it will be a headlining tour, right?
Would you like to play support for some bigger band maybe?
Michael: Yeah sure. I would love to play if the right band shows up. Support for ICED EARTH, IRON MAIDEN, whatever you name it. I would play support for any big band. That is the way you get out there.
Have you arranged any festivals this summer?
Michael: Yeah we are going to play the Raismes Festival in France but other than that we haven't any festivals yet. I think that the fact that album is so new is the reason why we will not play any big festivals, only in France. But I hope next year it is going to be better, we will have some good festival shows.
Oh, I am sure of it. By reading on your biography, I got the sense that you are very much into epic movies and reading right?
Michael: Oh yes.
So do you have in mind to do anything in the future in that form on your music?
Michael: Well on "Melancholy Beast" I actually based the song 'Legend' on the movie with Tom Cruise, a movie from the 80s. So, that song is about that movie. I was actually very impressed by that movie. I tried to put it down into words and rewrite it. If you read the lyrics of 'Legend' I am sure you will recognize it, if you have seen the movie.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the lyrics of the album so...
Michael: Oh, buy the album man (laughs).
[Note: At this point I started laughing like an idiot...] I will do. Well, from what I can understand is that the lyrics are based mostly on epic fiction stories?
Michael: Yes, most of the lyrics are based on epic fiction stories. Some of it is fantasy, some of it are personal experiences. There is also a love song, 'Until We fade Away', that is about me and my girlfriend. So, it is a mix.
So, you wrote the lyrics on the album as well?
Michael: Oh yes.
Ok. So please tell me, what exactly PYRAMAZE means?
Michael: Oh PYRAMAZE is a mix between the word pyramid and maze. I came up with that name because I always been impressed by the mythology of Egypt, the ancient Egyptian pyramids and I always thought that a pyramid is very powerful and mystical to look at. It is like a heavy metal band should be you know. So I combined it with the word maze, which is like labyrinth, that is a very mystic thing too. So I have PYRAMAZE.
It is quite strange name though.
Michael: Yeah (laughs).
So I have four questions that I want you to answer in one or two words if possible ok?
Who is your favorite guitarist?
Michael: John Schaffer. [Note: Without any doubts]
Which was the first album you bought?
Michael: Oh, I think it would have to be...oh man...(laughs) The first album? I think it was a mix album of some kind of pop when I was twelve years old. (laughs again)
What or who made you started playing the guitar?
Michael: I would say bands like BON JOVI or METALLICA made me play the guitar.
What do you listen to your stereo these days?
Michael: I am into STRATOVARIUS, ICED EARTH, BLIND GUARDIAN and NIGHTWISH, KAMELOT and yeah. All those great melodic bands you know.
Ok. I am done with the questions. Thank you so much for communicating and excuse my anxiety, it has been my first time on the phone.
Michael: Oh, it is ok. I want to thank you man, it has been a great interview.
Ok, thanks very much once more. Bye