SKELATOR emerge with “Cyber Metal”, an anthemic, steely offering of classic metal featuring high-wire vocals, NWOBHM riffing, all with a sci-fi lyrical bent, the band’s fifth studio album and first for Gates of Hell Records, “Cyber Metal”. Conde-Houston dug deep into his 1980s comic and movies collection for inspiration and “nerd-out” lyrics. Read on to know all that has been around this great album.
Hello Jason, Cyber Metal is your new album after five years, how do you feel about it?
After a lot of hard work and a lot of great help from everyone involved it was a rollercoaster of ups and downs along the way. In the end we got a great record deal and are getting rave reviews all around. We are happy with our performance and the product itself and are grateful for all the support we are getting from the worldwide Heavy Metal community. We love it and are very proud as well.
Your fifth studio album, what position you place it in your ranking regarding your other works?
I mean most of us will place it number 1 overall. I personally love Death to All Nations most because of what it really signifies with us moving to Seattle and becoming the band we are today, as well as being our first album on a label. Agents of Power is our most epic album with the Elric Suite in 12 parts. King of Fear is our first collaborative album and the first one where we actually spent money on studio time. The Swords EP is best of our San Diego era and the first time we had access to decent recording equipment, also highly ambitious for being recorded for free. Last on the list is Give Me Metal. It’s a fun album and really shows how eccentric we were in our youth and how passionate we were about Metal.
It seems Cyber Metal turns around a sci-fi lyrical content, right?
Yes, with this album I wanted to shy away from the stereotypical medieval swords and sorcery theme that we have touched on time and time again. I made a rule early on in the process “No songs about swords… unless they are laser swords.”
We find titles as Akira or Seven Scars in the album that seems to be clearly connected with some of the most iconic names in comic’s history. It’s easy to imagine that you are a huge fan of manga and the kind, aren’t you?
80/90’s Manga/Anime yes. I mean there’s still good stuff coming out like Attack on Titan but there is too much to keep up with nowadays. But the old stuff is what we grew up on and those two movies really had an impact on us in our teenage years. I first saw Fist of the North Star when I was 12 years old and it changed my life forever.
Classics by their own right. The cover art is also focused on that subject, the perfect circle?
I wanted the Cyber Samurai to be the focal point of the cover. We’ve had enough Skelator and Elric over the years. It was hard to find the right artist to really do this cover justice. Somehow I stumbled across a clerk at my local liquor store who shared the same passion for anime and video games as I. Told him I wanted it to look like a video game cover from the NES/SNES/GENESIS era. Ala Ninja Garden, Contra, Double Dragon and Castlevania.
A great finding. How long have you worked on the new album and how was the process?
3 years in total, partially due to the fact that we changed bassist twice during the whole process. But each time we had to re-hash the songs for the next bassist we would carefully recraft the song making it better and better each time. In the end we have a better than we would if we released it 2 years ago.
The process usually goes either Robbie or I bring an idea to the table like a chorus or intro to a song and we build from there as a band. But this album was more collaborative than ever. Songs like The Hammer or Highlander came from all of us bringing ideas together without any prior personal ideas.
And all that effort pays off, but the recording of the album has been something like a “tour de force” through several studios and with many people involved, right?
Yes and that is another reason for it taking so long. We first started with the drums in late March of 2018. Then we did rhythm guitars at each person’s house directly to the computer. Then by late June the basics were done and it was time for me to record vocals in Canada. Next was time for recording all the solos, keyboards, backup vocals and re-amping the guitars and bass to give the tones the extra power they needed. Lastly in the fall Robbie took many days off work to mix the album. In the end you have Cyber Metal.
Jason you command the band with a powerful voice, one important point for a band who wishes to stand out
Gracias. I have led this band through many battles over these last two decades. But I could not do it without the help of my bandmates. Not only do they help me bring my own visions to fruition with their musical talents but they also contribute a lot. When I drop the ball they are there to hold me accountable and help find solutions as well.
As far as my voice is concerned I have been singing all of my life. I started with my Mom’s Led Zeppelin records when I was a kid jumping around screaming “Baby, baby baby!” Then as a teenager I got into Metallica, Slayer and Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Then when I heard Powerslave for the first time I knew I wanted to sing “like that”. Then I got into Manowar, Do mine and various German bands like Edguy, Grave Digger and Primal Fear. But what really did it for me was Rob Halford. I used to listen to Judas Priest like 8 hours a day.
Later I learned to calm my voice down a bit by really delving deep into the career of Ronnie James Dio. I realized I could do less falsettos and do less harm to my voice. Then I started listening to funk and soul music to analyze how they hit higher notes without going into harsh falsettos. So I started listening to lots of Prince, Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind and Fire. Then a few months before recording the album I took vocal lessons from Ralf Schweppes over Skype. I learned alot from him about how to sustain voice in the long run and tips and tricks on recording technics and preparing to play shows.
Beyond that my presence in the band is very theatrical. I like to tell stories with my songs. I want the listener to see the story unfold as they go from verse to verse. Like in the song Temple of the Witch on King of Fear. First Verse are the warriors gathering to storm the witches keep, second verse the last warrior enters the temple. In the bridge the witch confronts the warrior and tells him to bow before her. Last verse the warrior raises his sword to fight her and the conclusion is up to the listeners imagination whether or not either of them succeed or if they both meet their demise together.
A great testimony, usually nothing comes for free in this world. Heavy metal with some speed riffing could define your sound, where do you place yourselves among the multiple labels and waves that are used nowadays?
I think metal-archives got it to a T. Epic/Heavy Speed Metal. The band has evolved over the years from our Thrash Metal beginnings to our later Epic Metal era like Agents of Power to now our Cyber Metal future. We might strip down for the next release and go for more OG Manowar style ala the Swords EP. But we’ll see what the future holds.
The lineup has experienced almost no changes for several years, that helps to define sound and ideas, I presume
Other than bassists, you are correct. The return to the throne of Patrick Seick and the wonderful addition of Rob Steinway on the guitar of glory, Skelator has gelled together very well in this last decade. There are many small eras of Skelator but this has been the longest and strongest in our bands history. With the four of us it’s easy to play old songs if we want and create new tracks that are still in the spirit of old Skelator but can push the envelope even further with maturity and finess.
The production is polished and crystalline but it’s no obstacle to a classic and powerful sound with a cool riffing that sometimes reminds of bands like Helstar or Agent Steel, for instance
Both bands are big inspiration to us. We even opened for them in 2006 in San Diego just before I moved up to Seattle to join Robbie and Patrick up here. We also really wanted to step up the game on layers of guitar, drums and vocals. Rob even bought a Kemper amp so we could find the best possible tone for the more modern sound we sought for this recording.
Any favorite song in the album?
My personal favorite is Cyber Samurai because it is the funnest to sing. The band as a whole cannot get enough Psychic Silver Wheels because the groove is infectious. But the fans really love Akira for the speed and shout along chorus. Another fan favorite is Cast Iron for the fist pumping pace and also shout a long chorus as well. I think the Hammer will also become a hit I’m seeing a lot comments on that as well.
After more than 20 years of career, you are where you thought you would be?
I never imagined realistically getting this far. I mean sure I figured we’d play in Germany one day and we did that in 2007. So my first humble goal was fulfilled. I also didn’t think the American metal scene would grow to be what it is today. We so inundated with Death and Black Metal back then it never crossed my mind that festivals like Frost and Fire or Legions of Metal would exist. I also thought Cyber Metal was a pipe dream, this album has always been kind of a funny joke between me and Robbie. Like anytime we had a sci-fi song idea we’d say “Yeah that’ll go on Cyber Metal”. I mean I thought the chorus to Cyber Samurai like almost 20 years ago and now it’s real and it sounds awesome. I wish I could go back in time and show Baby Skelator what the future holds, but then I would disturb the timeline and we don’t want that.
Yes, Doc and Marty McFly tought us that some eons ago. What are your next steps? Any tour programmed?
We are waiting to see what festivals come to us after the release of the album. I think Europe deserves a Skelatour in 2020. Beyond that we’ll play locally and maybe a late winter West Coast tour.
Thanks Jason for your attention and cool comments, if you wish to add something…
Muchísimas gracias por la oportunidad de hablar a nuestros fans de España y todo Latinoamérica. Nos encantaría tocar en cualquier país hispanohablante en el futuro! Guerreros de metal, leyendas de valor Creyendo los héroes de hierro Guerreros de metal!