Spiritual Beggars interview

"Fans of bands like Witchcraft and Graveyard could probably appreciate our music, too"

09/04/2013 @ 16:21
Although it seems that it's not any member’s first priority, Spiritual Beggars are recalling the shots in the nowadays 70s influenced hard rock. Two and a half years (not men) after their "Return To Zero", they’re hitting the road singing the "Earth Blues". Sharlee D'Angelo was in an extremely good mood and so we had the chance to talk about everything pretty much: The new album, the status of Spiritual Beggars, Michael Amott, all the other bands that he’s a part of, the Swedish metal scene and all the memorable experiences he had in Greece so far. And if you want to approach him, don’t count on the myth and ask him directly about the music, because he just doesn’t have any hobbies!

Spiritual BeggarsGood evening Sharlee, I’m Theodore from Rocking.gr. How are you? Are you in Sweden right now?
Yes, I am in Sweden. There’s cold weather here, it not super warm in Greece either, but it’s probably a little bit warmer than it’s here.

Yes, of course. Congratulations first of all for bringing out another very good Spiritual Beggars album.
Thank you, thank you very much.

Before we talk about the sound of "Earth Blues", I would like you to make a comment about the title of the album. Why Earth and why Blues?
Well, there are many reasons for that. I think that if you take a look at the world, what it looks like today, how we are treating our planet and how we sort of treating each other, I think that blues would be the state. If the earth itself could sing a song about how it’s feeling right now, I sure it was gonna be a blues, it wouldn’t be a happy song.

Spiritual Beggars - Earth BluesCould you tell us a little bit more about the recording procedure and the sound of your new album?
We started to record it in a little town in North Sweden where there’s a very good set of a live recording room and everything. The engineer there, Roberth Ekholm, is extremely good with the natural sounds. We started out doing it there, I think in was October maybe. We just spent like five days in that studio, just doing the basic tracks, like guitar, bass, drums and organ. Once we were finished there, we continued in Halmstad, Sweden with some more guitars overdubs and the vocals. It was also mixed in Halmstad by a man named Staffan Karlsson. It was sort of like spread out, because we started out dong the first session in October and then sort of continued in December and a little bit in January. It’s been sort of recorded a little here and there. It hasn’t been like a whole three months or anything so. The effective time hasn’t been more than two week of recording and mixing but I’m pretty stoked about the result. It sounds like quite natural, a bit old school in a way, I think just because of the way it’s been recorded. I think we were going for a less polished sound than we had on our last album, "Return To Zero". It was so, just to keep it spontaneous, a bit more energetic I think.

Spiritual BeggarsWhat new "Earth Blues" brings to the catalogue, to the sound of Spiritual Beggars?
I don’t really know, I think it just brings more of the same. I think we’re doing what we always have been doing. It’s just different sort of like versions of it. If you compare it for example to an album like "Another Way To Shine", it is a lot more melodic. But then again on the first EP there was a lot of melody as well in that one. Some people say that it is more sort of hard rock sounding, but I’ve always consider Spiritual Beggars a hard rock band, cause a lot of people says stoner, but I never understood what that term means anyway since no one of us really smokes, you know! (laughs) We are more into the beer, so it’s drinker rock if there’s that term! So I don’t really know, it’s just a more varied album. It’s got its ups and downs, there’s a bit more up tempo than we had on the last album, so in that sense it’s a little bit sort of closer to what "Demons" sounded like. "Demons" is a little bit heavier, a bit harder in a sense than "Return To Zero" or "Earth Blues" for that matter. I think It’s hard to describe it. To me it’s a bunch of songs, a type of songs that we write these days and it’s basically a mix of all our influences.

Spiritual BeggarsI think it’s less heavy sounding, still a lot of jamming, but less heavier in sound and in terms of distortion.
Yeah, yeah. Definitely yeah.

About the singer, the Greek God Apollo, what new does he bring to the band, in compare to JB, his predecessor?
I really love JB’s vocals and he was great to work with too, he’s still a very good friend of ours, but he has a completely different set up of personal expression vocal wise. He came up with certain limitations because he is like a guitar player who turned singer. On the new Grand Magus album he’s turning more and more into a real singer, he’s starting to really explore what he can do with his voice, whereas Apollo has always been a singer and vocals to him is an instrument like a guitar or keyboards or anything. He’s one of the few real, actual, like classic singers that I have worked with, cause he’s the kind of guy who can come down to the rehearsal room and starts just making lyrics on the top of his head, just have something to sing, like carrying a melody or few phrases. He’s that type of singer, he’s definitely the tsatsiki on top!

Spiritual BeggarsOne of the tracks that I stand out is "Dreamer", which is a cover by the way. How did you came to that song since it’s not, especially in the rock world, well known?
No, it’s not. I think we’re all fans of Bobby Bland, who made the song famous. Last time somebody made a cover of him was Whitesnake with "Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City". It did very well for them so we thought we try it, too! (laughs) It’s from the same album and it’s really a good song. We always loved it and we thought it would be cool, let’s record something different, something extra to have, maybe for a bonus track. But it turned out so well, so we thought let’s just include it on the album, cause we haven’t really had a cover song on an actual album before in a long time. So we thought it was a great idea. I love the song and dig what we can do with it. Especially the way that we played it, we sort of treated it more like it was a Rainbow ballad, that kind of thing and I think Apollo is really shining on that one with really soulful vocals and Michael’s playing some of his best lead guitar work on that track as well. We just always been fans of Bobby Bland, so we thought why not record it.

Spiritual BeggarsYes, it was a great cover. Beggars have been a pioneer in spreading the 70s rock influences since the 90s. Do you think that people recognize that, or you think that the band is underestimated in that field?
I don’t really know, I mean it’s not for me to say if we’re underestimated or not. I think it’s a sort of music that it’s not overly popular with the young people these days. That’s why we don’t have young fans, we can’t really be the new Bring Me The Horizon or anything like that. The fans that we have, hard core fans that really like listening to that type of music, a lot of them are also record collectors, they know a lot about really obscure 70s bands. It’s more like a really really small exclusive club that we are a part of. I would of course love a lot of more people to listen to it and to hear our music, but it’s difficult in these days. I would of course first love to be a bigger band than we are, because then a lot more people would the music and we can go play a lot more places than we do. It’s hard to know. There’s a whole new school of not super new bands. In the past half decade there have been a lot of bands coming out, like Witchcraft and Graveyard for example, Swedish bands which both of them are doing something completely different than we are. Even though it’s completely 70s orientated, they come from a completely different direction. So it’s not really that we sound like each other. I think that fans of all these bands could probably appreciate our music, too. But we don’t really go into it, the fact that they are completely 70s looking, something it’s like sort of messed up a little bit. But it’s hard to say, are we underestimated or not, what do you think?

Spiritual BeggarsI think that you should be more well known!
Ok, good, thank you, that’s the right answer! (laughs)

So, you’ve been in two bands with the mighty Michael Amott. How would you describe him as a musician and a person?
He’s an extremely good friend of mine and he’s great to work with. I mean he’s extremely creative, he’s very driven in what he’s got, but he’s not really like… A lot of the time when you have somebody in the band who is the predominant songwriter, a lot of the times tend to sort of lay down the rules for everybody, but he’s more like “ok, I’ve written the songs, what we do with it”. He knows that he’s not a bass player, he knows that he’s not a singer or a drummer or a keyboard player, so he lets everybody else do what they do best, because then you get the most. He’s very smart in that way, he’s very open when it comes to that thing. Also, since he’s completely self taught, he doesn’t really know much about music theory or anything, he just goes about with this sort of that feeling, I think that’s all that he does go by. If he hears something he thinks it sounds good and feels great he goes with that and if he feels like maybe we got the wrong thing, he would say that. He is very straight like I said, he’s incredibly easy to work with as well, and we have no problems with that. We come from the same musical background, we both like the 70s, we both started out playing in hardcore/punk bands, and we went on to metal then and other type of music as well and that goes for the rest of the band as well. We all know what we’re talking about. Apollo too, even if he’s the last one to come into the band he listens to a lot of the same music as well. If we tell him when we need a certain vocal phrase: “can you do a little bit more of Coverdale ’76”, then he knows what Coverdale ’76 means, he knows that doesn’t mean Coverdale ’89. That distinction is very important, too.

Spiritual BeggarsLet’s talk a bit about the other bands that you are in. Arch Enemy is set to release a DVD this year and a new album next year, is that right?
Yeah, yeah, that is the plan at least. We’ll see if we can stick to that plan, but that is what we’re working to at the moment at least. We started to do the DVD, just selecting material for it, cause we have a whole bunch in, see what shape or form that it will be or come out as. Then we’ll have a few festivals this year, that’s the only live we’re gonna do, there’s gonna be no more touring this year. Michael is on its way to the U.S. right now to sit and write some songs with Nick and then see what comes out of that and I think that a lot of the rest of the year is gonna be spent writing songs that we’ll see once we get ten or twelve songs that we like, we just gonna hit the studio.

I suppose that you will go on with as well with Witchery, but is there any chance to bring out a new Mrercyful  Fate album or make a tour with Mercyful Fate?
Not that I know of, no. I have no idea of what’s going on in that camp. I mean, the King started to feel a little bit very health wise now so now he’s out and they’re doing a bunch of festivals with King Diamond this summer. If I get a call or offer then I will know, but at that point I have no idea.

Spiritual BeggarsBut you will go on with Witchery?
Yeah, absolutely.

Last year you released with The Night Flight Orchestra a very good classic hard rock album. Do you plan to make a follow-up to that album sometime?
Absolutely! I know that David already wrote a bunch of songs. We’re just trying right now to fit in with everybody’s schedule, see when we can plan our live debut gig as well, so we’ll see what happens with that. But definitely that’s a very nice side thing to have. We all enjoy playing together and I love the album, I think it’s great but that’s very underestimated though, not a lot of people have heard it. (laughs) It’s hard when you do a sort of slick, melodic American rock album and then release it on a small independent Italian metal label. (laughs) It’s a little bit difficult but we have gotten some really really good reviews from people. Unfortunately not enough people know about it yet but we will definitely make another album as soon as we have time to. Soilwork just released their new album now, so they will be doing quite bit of touring. We’ll just hang around, have some good food and drink and then laugh and then we’ll play some music and see where we end up, so definitely there’s gonna be a follow up to that one.

Spiritual BeggarsIsn’t it exhausting to be at the same time in so many active bands?
It’s not really exhausting, it’s more that it’s difficult to get everybody’s schedule in order to be able to do stuff. But it’s not exhausting, because if it was I wouldn’t really play with different bands, I would stick to that one band, if that was the thing. It gives you sort of musical breathing room to do something different. I don’t really have any hobbies, I think that music was my hobby and then it just turned into like, you know, it’s how I make a living as well. So I’m not really interesting in anything else. When I go back instead of doing hobbies, I play some other kind of music then, cause I’m extremely single-minded like that music is one of the few things that I’m really deeply interested in and there’s still so much to discover in the world of music and also playing with people that you like. A lot of musicians hang out with other musicians and then, after a while, if you have enough time, then it’s like Wow, should we do something together musically? Well, yeah, absolutely! Some are turning into reality and some not, but it’s great to have different, when you like and listen to lot of types of music, you always kind of dream to play those types of music, you’ve listened to it enough, so it just gives you opportunity to do that.  

Spiritual BeggarsWhat do you believe that an old guy who listens to classic rock and likes Beggars would think if he would listen to Arch enemy? Something like, Oh god, it cannot be true!?
Well some people probably would be. But I think that most people who are more into classic things what they react to is the vocals, which is something that they don’t understand because they are not used to that: She is screaming, why she is sounding so angry, what’s wrong with that? But then again I think a lot of people can actually, if they can listen and pass that, then they will see that there is a lot of melodies, guitar work and stuff that they usually get into. For example, we played in a festival a couple of years ago and Europe who played there as well seemed to be in fact big fans. They were like oh, that was great, that was fantastic. The same thing goes for bands like Saxon, they also like us. If you don’t like the vocals that’s understandable, because there might be a bit extreme. I hope that people can get hooked on the melodies and maybe they can join the vocals as well and learn something new hopefully.

The Swedish rock and metal scene is ever growing since the 90s. Which are the main reasons for that?
It’s cold, dark and boring here and the only way to remedy that is to have something to entertain yourself. It think that’s exactly what it’s about. And especially in the 90s, early 90s there wasn’t much of, if you wanted to see extreme bands or metal overall there weren’t many shows or bands coming here. Something that’s why a lot of people formed bands and they just started to put shows themselves. People putting on shows, inviting other bands, that’s why the whole machine has started to grow. But it’s something that you don’t really see it that much anymore, I think it goes on in a different way these days than it used to be back then. It was lot of people hanging out in the same place or sending physical or actual letters to each other, cause that was the only way of communicating. And nowadays I don’t really know if there is a scene in that way but I think we have a good tradition of know-how, because we’re such a small country that you will have to be extremely popular here to be able to sustain yourself, just to be popular in Sweden you have to be really big. So I think bands have learned and pawn each other how to go to rest of the world, because especially if you play rock or metal it’s hard to get on TV or on the radio, it’s like the charts here. All you have to do is to go on the rest of the world to find people who like your kind of music. I think we’re good on that, we’re good at exporting ourselves.

Sharlee D'Angelo (Spiritual Beggars)Yeah, I understand that. You have switched from the iconic Rickenbacker bass to Ibanez. Was it hard or inevitable for you to make this change?
It was just because I had my old Rickenbacker for fifteen years until it turned into firewood in the end! And I think that old instruments like that, that were built in the late 60s or early 70s should be treated with more respect, they can’t hold out for that long. I was approached by Ibanez and they built me stuff to that special occasion I told them exactly what I wanted. I was very happy with it and it’s great because now I can, it doesn’t matter if I tore the bass into the ground really, because I can always get a new one, it doesn’t really cost me anything! (laughs) there’s a very good thing about it, because after about a year or a year and a half of touring a bass needs some serious reconstruction after that because it takes its toll with all the flights, a lot of moisture, different temperatures. It’s a living, breathing instrument, it’s  made of wood so it’s gonna break down at some point. And it’s like a car, you have to get a service once in a while, otherwise it breaks down completely. The good thing is that now I can just put them to rest like it’s not completely done yet so I just order a new one with a new color or something. That’s the good thing about having an endorsement like that, it’s very very helpful. Whenever something breaks down, as much service packs as I need, I can send it back to them and they can fix it up.

Spiritual BeggarsYour favorite bass players come from the 70s and the early 80s. Is there any more recent or younger bass player that you admire?
I can’t really think of any right now. I mean there are probably some really good ones out there, but there’s nobody there that I have really been influenced by lately. It’s mostly older players that I do like.

That’s normal because you got inspired from them.
Yeah, exactly. Back when I was impressionable and I was learning to play, I think that’s when I’ve been the most open. And now that I have almost found my style I’m not really looking for anything new. But then again if I have to discover something new it’s usually something old that hasn’t occurred before. Somebody turns me into some weird Italian Fusion bass playing from 1974 or something, that’s usually what happens!

Sharlee D'Angelo (Spiritual Beggars)Which album do you think that has the best bass sound and the best bass playing throughout the history of rock and heavy metal music?
Oh God, I don’t know there are so many that are really good! When it comes to more modern sounding albums I would say...I can’t even remember the name of the album. What’s the Queensryche album that came out after "Empire"?

"Promised Land".
"Promised Land", exactly, that one! I’m not a big fan of the album or such, it has a few good songs, but mostly I think Eddie Jackson, I mean the sound of "Empire" and "Operation: Mindcrime" was great too. I think especially "Promised Land" was the biggest, best modern sounding bass sound I’ve ever heard. I think Glenn Hughes’ bass sound on "Come Taste The Band" is fantastic, that is probably my all-time favourite. But then again you have lots of things, I think "Heaven And Hell" and "Mob Rules", that two are my really big big favorites when it comes to bass sound. And I think Saxon’s "Strong Arm Of The Law" and "Metal Heart" by Accept...

There are so many...
Yeah, there’s so many that I can sit and keep on counting up albums for you for another two hours! (laughs)

Spiritual BeggarsYou have played live in Greece not only with different bands but also in pretty different situations. What do you remember the most from the Greek audience?
Very very memorable was my first ever show in Greece, my second actually! That was the first time that we played in Athens with Mercyful Fate in 1997 and King had been sick for a while, then he finally went to the doctor when we got to Athens and the doctor said “You shouldn’t even be speaking”. By the time we got the news, everything was already set up, the audience was in and we were sitting backstage when we heard a thousand Greek people just screaming outside and we were like “we can’t really cancel the show”. We did the show halfway instrumental, then King just came out without make-up or anything and he was just “eehhh, eehhh…”, he said a few words, but people seemed quite happy anyway. That was memorable I have to say! I think that all the Greek shows that we have done…Another one that was a bit memorable was the Rockwave Festival in 2009 when we went and just becaused it rained so much we didn’t get to play with Arch Enemy and we were there, hanging out two days and that was like “ok, fantastic!”. I really really wanted to play because you know how great the Greek club audience is and a Greek Festival is like “take a hundred of those clubs and put them in the same place”. I mean we all really hopping that we got to play back then but it was the sake so we couldn’t play, so it was like “ok, we came all the way down, then let’s just hang out and party!” ‘cause Saxon were there, Down were there, the Slipknot guys were there, Mastodon. So we hanged out and partied which means that I woke up too late so I missed the flight, so I had to wait another day! So I just partied the other night, so I came down to Greece, spent four days and didn’t played a single note! That’s quite memorable!

Spiritual BeggarsYou will be doing a tour this April with Beggars and you’ll play in some festivals too. Do you know if there is any possibility to visit Greece once again?
I think so definitely! I think we’ve been talking about probably after the summer at some point, unless there is some sort of summer festival happening, I don’t think it is…but I think probably in the fall, after the summer we definitely come down. We’ve always been in contant with promoters in Greece about it, because Greece is, together with Japan our favorite place to play. So it will definitely happen this year.

That’s nice, we hope to see you then. You know I had seen you in 1999 with Mercyful Fate and I was on the road coming to that show in 2009 that was cancelled...!
Yeah, that’s right actually, there’s always something memorable in Greece. We played in 1999 when the tower failed, all the backline went out so the amps didn’t work, and we had to stop in the middle of the show, well after two songs! So there is always something memorable happening in Greece!

Well, hope to see you in fall. Thank a lot for your time Sharlee, it’s was great to get the chance to talk with you.
Thank you very much. It was nice talking to you and I hope to see you when we come down to Greece. Take care. Bye-Bye!