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Interview

Crystal Ball Guitarist Scott Leach Talks New Album "LifeRider"

Photo of Crystal Ball

Band Photo: Crystal Ball (?)

Power metal fans rejoiced when Crystal Ball returned last month with new album "LifeRider," which has seen the release of several catchy music videos and will soon be supported by summer festival appearances.

With the melodic metal opus out now via Massacre Records, we caught up with guitarist Scott Leach to discuss the band recording "LifeRider" with Stefan Kaufmann and bringing on Battle Beast vocalist Noora Louhimo for a guest appearance. Read the full interview below.

xFiruath: Where did you film that music video for “Paradise?”

Scott: The performance was filmed at an abandoned paper factory in Switzerland. We don’t have a lot of those kind of locations. Usually everything is really neat and tidy in Switzerland, so this is an exception and great opportunity for us to use this place. The performance scenes took us two days to shoot in total. There were a lot of restricted areas on the location, because it was dangerous, holes in the floor, handles that are not safe, etc. We were really lucky that we had good weather in March when we shot the video. Normally it’s quite cold and rainy/snowy at this time of year. It was very cold though. The scenes with “the wanderer” were shot on two different locations in the Swiss mountains and took another 2 days. So this was the most complex video we’ve ever done. We also had to adjust part of the “story” during the editing, because some scenes did not work.

xFiruath: Crystal Ball isn't too far off from a 20th anniversary – you guys got anything special in the works to mark the accomplishment?

Scott: Well, we started 1995 as a cover band, but it was 1999 when the first record as Crystal Ball was released. So we have some time left. But to be honest, we haven’t thought about that anniversary yet. To us it feels like a fresh start at the moment and we look ahead.

xFiruath: When were the tracks for “Liferider” written and what does the writing process look like for Crystal Ball?

Scott: The songs were written from August to November 2013. It was a little different process than on the last record for timing reasons. I came up with the instrumental ideas, played some of the riffs and themes in the rehearsal room with the band to hear how they work, arranged some parts, etc. Then we recorded the basic tracks - guitars, bass, drums, and keys and sent it to Steven. Some with vocal ideas, some without. He recorded his ideas and sent it back. I adjusted some of the material if needed and then flew to Germany were Steven lives, and we wrote lyrics and we recorded the demo vocals at a friends studio. We did this with all the songs we wrote, always 3-4 at a time.

Scott: We recorded the album in Solingen, Germany. Our producer was Stefan Kaufmann (ex-Accept, ex-U.D.O.) like on the previous album (and on 2 older albums as well). It was a really relaxed working atmosphere because we know each other so well. We also know about Stefan Kaufmann's great abilities as a producer and so trusted him totally. He achieved to top the production of the last record and capture the power of the band even better.

xFiruath: What sort of themes and concepts are you dealing with lyrically on the album?

Scott: The concept is the journey of life analogous to a train ride. So like on a train ride some people join you for a little while, travel with you and then get off again. You might stop at some stations and get back on the train later on. All songs are about things that happen in life but in no particular order.

xFiruath: Are there any guest musicians on this album, and what sort of spin did they put on the release?

Scott: Yes, we did a duet on the track “Eye to Eye” with Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast). It was a really great and easy to work with collaboration. We did also a video to this song, you can see the band perform in the recording studio. This collaboration certainly helped to get more attention an gain some new fans. Noora is from Finland and we flew her in to our CD release show in Switzerland to perform live with us. Stefan Kaufmann also has a guest appearance on the album. He plays the acoustic intro to “Memory Run.”

xFiruath: What's the feedback been like so far for the album and have you read any reviews? Any particularly interesting positive or negative thoughts you've seen on the release?

Scott: The feedback has been really great. We’ve received lots of good reviews from many countries. Sometimes it’s funny to read opposite opinions about the same songs. In the end music is a matter of taste. But all agreed that this is the best Crystal Ball record up to date. Also the good production is mentioned many times.

xFiruath: There's a digipack version of the album with extra bonus tracks – were those recorded at the same time as the rest of the album or where do they come from?

Scott: Two of the bonus tracks are cover versions of Ronnie James Dio songs. They are also on the Dio tribute album “A light into the Black” that our label released also in May 2015. Those two songs were recorded a year ago in my home studio (except for the vocals) and were waiting for the release of that tribute album which got shifted time and time again. It’s “Sacred Heart” and “The Sign of the Southern Cross.” You can hear the first one also on YouTube as a official teaser for the tribute album. The 3rd track “Not Like You” is an original Crystal Ball song, but it’s a leftover from the last record “Dawnbreaker.” The songs were re-mixed to match the sound of the new record though.

xFiruath: Will Crystal Ball be hitting the summer festival circuit or touring anywhere in support of the release?

Scott: We will play a couple of open air festivals with bands like The Scorpions and Thunder. A more extend tour is also planned for this fall. Details will follow, please check our website for the lasted dates.

xFiruath: Have you personally seen any really great live shows lately?

Scott: Yeah, I’ve just been to the Sweden Rock festival in Sölvesborg, Sweden. Def Leppard put on a great show. Dare was awesome too. Extreme was absolutely fantastic and Ghost really surprised me with great songs and musicianship.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.

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