Gitaron interview (02/2009)
|With:||Giovanni Smet [guitar, vocals]|
|Conducted by:||Thryce (e-mail)|
(Originally done in Dutch)
Gitaron, the sympathetic heavy metal band, hailing from Beveren-Waas, Belgium, are releasing their debut album "Mental Visions" in a few weeks. So the time was right to catch up with frontman Gio to talk about the upcoming album and the band's current activities and plans.
Hey Gio. It's nice doing an interview with you again - it's been a while. How's everything going with Gitaron at the moment?
Everything's going fine with me and Gitaron, and I hope you're doing fine too. Gitaron is moving very rapidly at the moment. A lot has happened recently and everything we're doing is going incredibly swell, we're facing a good future perspective. First of all our new full-length "Mental Visions" will be released pretty soon. It's also our very first full-length album actually. Recently we also signed a record deal with M.M.R.S. Records. Currently we're successfully working on the preparations of our "Mental Tour", so I think it's safe to say Gitaron will be fine in the near future.
Since our last interview at the end of 2007, a lot has happened within Gitaron ranks. You guys had to endure a lot of line up changes, leaving only two out of five original members. Am I wrong if I say it really can't be easy to start from scratch over and over again?
You're absolutely right about that. First of all I decided to focus solely on the guitar parts, and I quit combining playing guitar and doing the vocal work. We almost immediately found a perfect replacement in the voice of Nico De Clerq. There will always be people comparing my vocals to Nico's, but the fact of the matter is Nico really has the perfect voice for this generation of Gitaron. He already proofed that both in the studio as live. Shortly after Nico joined our ranks, Femke Waterschoot decided to leave the band because she couldn't combine her work for Gitaron with the upbringing of her two children. From that point on, things started to worsen, and I had to take the decision to fire Aaron Onghena, our second guitarist. Some certain things happened we could no longer tolerate and I think Aaron wanted to handle things differently than we did. After Aaron's departure, also Tom Willems decided to leave the band. At that point we were missing both a drummer and a second guitar player. Soon we found a perfect guitarist, named David Van Gompel, but we kept muddling along with our drummers. First we thought we found a new permanent drummer in Freddie Vandenberghe (the brother of bassist Wilfied) but he had to leave again quickly because of backaches. Shortly afterwards Michael Bauwens joined the fold. In my eyes he would have been an excellent drummer, if he would have got more time to get more experience. But he didn't get any time because the studio manager started to pressure us to record the album. So we had to look for another, more experienced drummer who could record our songs as soon as possible. And so we ended up with Tom De Vriendt (known from Fireforced and ex-Double Diamond). Tom did an amazing job playing all the drum parts on our album, but somehow the drumming got recorded wrong, so we couldn't use those after all. Time was running out and once again we still needed a drummer. Luckily we found one in the person of Steven Van Dijck, a young but very talented drummer. And so far, this is still our permanent line up. As you can see, we had to work on it a lot, but I'm proud to say we now have an excellent formation and we all are geared to one another now.
But in the meantime you guys have finished a new album, "Mental Visions". In what way did these numerous line up shifts affected the recording of the album?
Only the shifts in drummers caused a lot of trouble for the recording process. Like I said, we had to re-record all the drum tracks which delayed the whole process. The other line up changes didn't really affect the whole recording process because we had prepared the album recording with the rest of the outfit in advance. So far the release date is still set for March 14, then the very first Gitaron album "Mental Visions" will be presented to the fans.
This is only your first full-length release. How did the recording process go for you personally as frontman?
To me personally, the whole recording process went pretty swell. Both David's as my guitar parts were recorded quite fast, and also Nico's vocals and Wilfied's bass tracks were done swiftly. Every one of us did of course take their time to achieve a good result.
Some memorable or funny anecdotes you want to mention about the whole recording process?
Personally, I found it quite funny to see some people behave after a number of hours in the studio. The longer we were in there, the crazier some people started to act. Maybe it's not so funny at that time around, because we were there of course to get our work done whatsoever. But looking back afterwards we can laugh about it though. There is some video footage of the recording and when I watch those again, I'm doubled over with laughter.
What can we expect from Gitaron on this new record?
The band Gitaron performing as a whole. There are a few tracks from the demo on it too, and I'm very happy with the result of the remastering. Of course all new songs are pure straightforward "Gitaron" songs too. When recording the album we also tried to keep in mind the live setting of these songs as much as possible, so they are recorded the way we also want to bring them live. Another nice thing is that, now with David in the band, we also paid a lot of attention to performing guitar solos. These line up shifts turned out for the best for the band, and that's something you immediately hear on this album.
Probably one of the biggest differences with "The First Battle" demo is the loss of Femke's female vocals. How did you find a way to round this when the demo songs got remastered on "Mental Visions"?
Nico took care of those parts really well on the album. On those parts he did some double vocals by singing those parts in different ways. I'll be doing backing vocals when we play live, and Nico and I are geared to one another very well, we also noticed that during rehearsals.
There was no replacement for Femke. Yet in the previous interview you told me Femke's background vocals were a big plus point for the Gitaron sound. So why did you decide to go on without those female vocals?
The reason is we wanted to try to give Gitaron a more "heavy" edge. Femke's vocals sure were a plus point on that demo. We will probably never know how well her voice would fit Nico's vocals. After her departure we opted to go on without female vocals and with me doing the backing vocals only. The result of that is we are really sounding heavier.
The next couple of months will be really busy for Gitaron: you have scheduled a lot of concerts. How will these live performances look like? What will the audience get from Gitaron?
We'll be playing these live dates in support of our "Mental Visions" record of course. We'll be trying to present our new album to the crowd as good as possible, and maybe we'll throw in a new song from time to time too. We have a few more new songs in stock which won't appear on the "Mental Visions" album. During the recording I haven't been sitting still and I came up with a few more new songs that we might be playing live as a sort of surprise. Like I said, despite the line up changes and recording, we kept being pretty active.
Who can always cheer up a Gitaron concert as a special guest?
That's a tricky question because I'm really happy with the current Gitaron line up. But if I could pick someone just for the fun of it, I would let Arjen Anthony Lucassen cheer up one of the gigs. I would love to get on stage next to Ayreon one day.
A new album ready, a new and solid line up, a deal with a record label and a lot of live gigs coming up; seems like things are turning great for Gitaron. Do you guys notice your growing popularity yourselves?
I did get the impressions we're getting more and more popular. We just kicked off our "Mental Tour" and I heard and saw a lot of good things from the crowd after the first couple of gigs. I hope the new record gets the same positive acclaims and reception as we get after our live gigs. But I have a pretty good feeling about that.
How healthy is the Belgian metal scene for such a relatively young band as Gitaron?
There are of course always things that could be done better. I believe we need more organizations who want to book good bands for live events. Sometimes I have the feeling people are afraid to book certain bands. Nonetheless Belgium has a lot of musical talent around. But as long as Gitaron stays on the right tracks, you don't hear me complaining.
What do more you absolutely want to achieve with the band?
I certainly want Gitaron to achieve a slot on the Graspop festival one day. It has always been one of my dreams to play there someday. I think everybody has the same dream in our metal scene though. For the rest, I'm pretty much open for everything - the sky is the limit, also for Gitaron.
One last question: what is your ultimate rock 'n roll-feeling?
To give myself maximally live on stage knowing the audience is going totally berserk. And afterwards going even more berserk when hanging out with the fans.
Thanks for your time and answers! The last words are Gitaron's. Feel free to add whatever you want, what everybody still need to know about Gitaron, or what I forgot to ask.
To every metal fan, look out for Gitaron in your area! Have fun with our studio album "Mental Visions". Follow your metalheart! And a big "thank you" to Metal Storm!
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