26th April 2020
Ivan Pavlakovic (v)
Q: You’re a French band, from Troyes (pronounced ‘Towa’). I’ve never been there but I did read that it’s a small town, very old, quite religious and a population of about 60,000. Is there much of a Metal scene there?
IP: There’s a tiny bit but it’s basically the same stuff that is going around in France and France is not really a Metal country. I would say that probably in Brittany and up north like Lille (pronounced ‘Li-el)and Arras (pronounced ‘A-ri’) and Paris of course there are Metalheads but as soon as you go south there’s not as much. We say we are from Troyes but actually we are spread out and it’s only the founder of the band, Adrian, who is from Troyes; I live in Montpellier (pronounced ‘Mon pe li e’) in the south of France and gigging in the south, one day you can have a decent venue with plenty of people and then the next week, it’s empty. We have some good festivals like Hellfest but I feel that the French audiences are saving their money to go to the big events and don’t support the local scene. When you start to get a name like we have, you can do some cool stuff but before that it’s difficult.
Q: You’ve incorporated a lot of different genres into your music; who are you personal influences as a fan?
IP: The first shock in my life was AC/DC. I was thirteen years old and loved sports at school. I used to be a swimmer – part of the junior French team – and was very serious about it swimming twice a day. I met a guy with long hair wearing T.shirts with monsters on; they were Iron Maiden T.shirts. We started to hang out together and he introduced me to that music and his friends. At that point in France, the heaviest stuff on mainstream radio or TV was The Final Countdown by Europe but this guy did a cassette for me with Crazy World on one side by Scorpions and the other side was a melting pot of AC/DC, Metallica, Megadeath, etc and I put that in my walkman and my life changed in a flash. I was totally overwhelmed by the power and it provoked something in me. That’s where it started.
Q: How about your influences as a vocalist?
IP: I would say the three biggest influences were James Hetfield, Mike Patton from Faith No More with his versatility and for aggressiveness and attitude, Phil Anseimo from Pantera. Nowadays I love Corey Taylor, he can do it all. The best melodic stuff and ballads and with Slipknot he’s got phenomenal growls.
Q: Can you give us the evolution of your current line-up as your album has four musicians but the promo photographs have five.
IP: It’s always been five, it’s just a question of who recorded the album. The thing is that when we recorded that first album, Adrian was doing all the guitar parts and the bass and then the definite line-up comes from I would say September 2018 before going on tour with Tremonti.
Writing, recording and touring
Q: What is your writing and recording process? Are you all in the same room or do you do it remotely?
IP: Well as I mentioned, we don’t all live in the same area so we are not a band that can rehearse every week so when we write songs, there’s just Adrian and I. Adrian is the founder and he writes all the tracks, the music, does all the arrangements and programs the drums and does all the guitars and then once he has a decent demo, he sends that over to me and I start to invent vocal melodies. For French people, we have what we call a ‘Yoghurt’ which is a process whereby instead of writing proper lyrics straight away, we sing random English words that sound pretty cool and then once the structure of those lines are agreed on, I can start to write the proper lyrics. That way, sometimes it gives me a sentence that just pops out with a strong meaning and I’ll base the future lyrics on that line.
Q: White Colossus was released in March 2018. It isn’t the average Metal album and I like it especially for that reason. Did your style of mixing genres come naturally or was it a conscious decision?
IP: It’s totally natural. What happened on that album was that all the tracks without the vocals were already written because Adrian founded the band back in 2012 and for four years he had been struggling with the lineup. I don’t want to call him a genius because that’s too cocky but he has so much talent but he’s a great guitar player, songwriter, composer and he couldn’t find the right musicians as he was too young, he didn’t know the right people and was more with amateurs. So he struggled for years and he couldn’t find a singer either. He was always finding singers that couldn’t sing properly in English and when you want to go international, you have to have someone who can manage English pretty well otherwise it doesn’t sound good to the ears of the rest of the world. Finally we met, he sent me all the tracks and he had everything already done, on his own, so I put my flavor on it. I was coming from a more old school type of Metal like Five Finger Death Punch, Stone Sour, etc and it was a bit of a bit of a challenge for me but no, there is no plan for how we want our music to sound. It just comes; we don’t care about genres.
Q: It has had excellent reviews everywhere and justifiably so as well.
IP: Cool, thanks man. Yeah we’ve had a great debut album and we couldn’t ask for better than that.
Q: Let’s go to playing live. Opening for Judas Priest must have been a good moment.
IP: Man! (laughs) That was beyond a dream! It was before going on tour with Tremonti that we had a phone call from a big promoter in France and he said ‘Well guys, what would you think about opening for Judas Priest next January?’ and we were like ‘You’re shitting me man!’ (laughs) but of course we said we would go. He said he had been thinking about us for it but then added that the Priest fans are very much like Iron Maiden fans in that they are hardcore and like their own kind of Metal and can be pretty rough on the openers but we said ‘Fuck it – we’ll do it’. Even if the audience gave us the finger, it’s a unique opportunity to open for the Metal Gods and we were not going to let that slip. On the day of the gig, the technicians for Priest were so lovely to us, making room on stage and doing everything they could. We were humble of course and prepared as we had just finished the Tremonti tour where we had to adapt to different stages and venues but the crew saw that so everything went smooth. After the soundcheck, we were in our dressing room about thirty minutes before going onstage, I’m not dressed yet and someone knocks on the door, they come in and it’s Rob Halford – I’m in my socks! (laughs) Man he was so lovely to us. He introduced himself and said that he just wanted to say a little hello and ask how we were doing. He said he was glad to have us as openers and had heard good stuff about us, glad to have a French band opening, asked about our plans for the future…he was talking to us like a friend and we were almost speechless. He’s still in great shape as well, sings like a monster and we daren’t ask for a photo but he said ‘C’mon. take a photo with me. Put it on Instagram and it will give you a little buzz – do whatever you want to get you press.’ Fantastic. Onstage – and I don’t want to sound arrogant but we are known for being a good band on stage (Tremonticouldn’t believe it was our first tour ever) – we gained the crowd that night and as I left the stage, Rob was there, he put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘Great show Ivan’. I was on a cloud for a week after that.
Q: Is that your biggest gig to date?
IP: Yeah we performed in front of about 7,000 people that night. It was crazy man.
Q: Your voice flicks between growl and melodic through songs. Do you do any special warm ups or trainings on tour to keep in shape?
IP: Not particularly. I warm up for about ten minutes before going on stage but I’ve been a professional singer for almost twenty years now…
Q: Twenty years?
IP: Yeah I was performing in Musicals for ten years when I lived in Paris. It’s difficult to live off of Metal in France and as I didn’t want to do anything else other than sing and be on stage, I had to diversify and do covers and other things. I worked for Euro Disney as well performing shows, working with Notre-Dame de Paris and a musical called Cleoptra for two years touring France in big venues so I’ve never had any issues with my voice. I use it properly otherwise I would not be able to sing. I’ve had many different coaches but I’ve never had one for the screaming and growling; I learnt that by myself.
In the future
Q: Your new single, Unstoppable, is getting a lot of hits; is that a typical of what will be the second album?
IP: I’ll say the second album is going to be a little bit more accessible music-wise but you will still have songs with different layers. We have more hit singles – you know for a Metal band – anthems with more simple riffs and big melodies. It’s a natural evolution of the band because now Adrian knows the singer that he has and can write to suit me. This is an inspiration for him because he knows my voice and what I am able to do. He’s not necessarily writing for me but it is an automatic inspiration to have a singer that he knows and where he can go with. I’ll say we are going a bit more towards the catchy, energetic kind of songs but we will still have some different types of songs. We have a great album within our hands and the professionals and business guys are more and more around us, we are going to sign with a good booking and management company in Germany and we’ve got a lot of help from a guy named Ossy Hoppe who used to work with Deep Purple and runs Wizard Promotions. He’s like an angel on our shoulders.
Q: Due you have a target release date?
IP: We were going to release it in October but that isn’t going to happen as we are stuck in the middle of the recording process so I hope we can release it at the beginning of 2021.
Q: Just in time for when UPP-tone want to bring you to Japan then.
IP: Yeah that would be good! It’s always good to have something new to present to the audience as well and it would be a better set with the two albums.
Q: Ivan, thanks very much for having a chat. Until we meet, stay safe, get that second album done and we’ll look forward to seeing you as soon as we can.
IP: I’m buzzing for that! It’ll be a pleasure and it’s going to happen and we will give our best to the Japanese audience.
Q: Thanks Ivan, take care.
IP: Thank you Glenn and thanks for the opportunity. Great to chat with you.
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