Blackslash’s incredibly catchy and musically proficient third full-length release, “Lightning Strikes Again”, has solidly established the German quintet as a commanding “traditional” heavy metal pioneer alongside fellow countrymen such as Blizzen, Stallion and Forensick, and many other promising “up and comers”. With us today is Alec, the band’s bassist and original founding member. As we run through the motions (and to the top!) relating to the ins and outs of such a compelling rise.
Blackslash band pic
Hi Alec, thank you for joining us here at Grande Rock; it is a pleasure!
A: Hi! Thanks for the interview.
Firstly, what exactly inspired you to found Blackslash, and how did the rather cool name come about? Does the band’s moniker have any deeper connotations or does it just simply sound good?
A: I remember being about 15 years old when I saw the music video for “The View From The Afternoon” by Arctic Monkeys on MTV (back when MTV was actually about music). In the video you can see a drummer playing his kit with an incredible intensity; nothing can stop him from playing. The intensity of his playing struck me so hard – I knew that I had to perform music with the same focus and drive the young lad was doing it in this video. So, the initial spark wasn’t because of some Heavy Metal song or album I’m afraid but rather the aesthetic and intensity of an Indie Rock band’s music video. As for our band’s name: I think it just sounded good – better than “Plesioth” and “TeaAge”, which were the names we gave our little group in our first year of playing together anyway.
Even though “Lightning Strikes Again” is your third album, apparently, it’s only the second one recorded in a professional studio... which begs the question: how, where and when was your rather unheralded full-length debut, 2013’s “Separate but Equal”, recorded? As well, do you have any feedback to offer in its regards, considering it’s still somewhat “in the shadows”?
A: That’s right. We recorded “SBE” in our own rehearsing space, which is a small, dark, stinky room near our hometown of Donaueschingen. Our guitar player Chris recorded everything (we didn’t use a metronome, which you can clearly hear when listening to the record). The mixing and mastering was done by a small local studio. Back then we didn’t have jobs or money, so recording our songs by ourselves was the only option we had. Because of its flaws in rhythm and production and some song sounding kinda off, I usually don’t want to talk about this album. I think some songs had potential and the songwriting went into an all right direction, but I see the album only as a starting point for our journey and nothing more.
Whereas “Separate but Equal” was released under 7Hard Records, it looks like the band has established a solid business relationship with Iron Shield Records... how did this develop?
A: Iron Shield Records is a great Metal label from Berlin. The man behind ISR is Thomas Dargel. When we were looking for labels to release our second album we stumbled across his website and we immediately liked what we saw: Revenge, Tungsten Axe and Delirium Tremens? Hell yeah, we had to sign to this label.
Bluntly put, your killer flasgship single, “Rock n’ Roll”, ardently reeled in more than just this metal head… Essentially, I feel this track represents, or rather, is the indelible spark which launched Blackslash to new heights – and rising still, as attested by masterful choice cuts such as “Night City Street Lights”, “Skyline Rider”, “Illuminate the Night”, and last but oh-so-not- least, “Right to the Top”, likely my overall preferred Blackslash track (after endless deliberation!) If anything, “Sinister Lightning” highlights such as “Rock n’ Roll”, “Lucifer’s Reign” and “Wild and Free”, readily put Blackslash on the map as far as intensely catchy and melodic metal goes. Am I right in assuming the band truly picked up steam with their advent, or was it simply a question of Blackslash’s super enthusiastic stage presence and/or high level of accessibility? Namely, how would you describe the band’s status at a local, national and European level?
A: I think the album really got us to another level of popularity among the German Heavy Metal underground scene. It must have been a combination of having a great artwork (by Celso Mathias), good production (by Maranis Studio) and some killer gigs (Rock of Ages festival, playing with Skull Fist and so on and so forth...). Still, our status as a band is slowly growing. It’s tough to make a name for yourself when there are so many good bands out there and the |NWOTHM| rising. On a local level we are quite popular, I think. Some days ago I saw a student at the university, where I am studying, and he wore a Blackslash T-shirt. That was so cool to see. Knowing that people listen to the music we created fills me with so much joy and pride. Anyway, to get back to your question: On a national level some people know us from the underground scene but we aren’t huge by any means. On a European level even less people know about us. But we try to work on it (hence releasing an EP with another European band).
What are some of the bigger shows/festivals you’ve gigged and, dare I ask, does Blackslash envisage a North (and/or South!) American tour anytime in the foreseeable future, or is something the band aspires towards once the opportunity arises?
A: Rock of Ages was our biggest gig so far. Hell, there were bloody stage hands carrying my bass on stage for me, which was completely unnecessary. You can find one or two videos of that gig on Youtube I think. I would love to tour North America, but right now it’s not an option at all. We wouldn’t be able to cover the expenses and pretty much no-one knows us over there, so we would play in front of 2 or 3 people every night. Maybe if we can get a supporter slot for a bigger band but until then I’m happy to play gigs in Germany.
What are some of the band’s favorite tracks to play live, be they from “Lightning Strikes Again” or your full discography?
A: I really love playing “Stellar Master”, because people tend to sing the chorus with us and the song’s fast pace animates the fans to go wild. It is also one of the few songs I play without a pick, which is a welcoming change sometimes.
Are there any track(s) which pose a challenge live, no matter how much you prepare/practice for them? Regardless, which has been your very best and/or memorable show to date?
A: There is no real challenge to be honest. Sure, some songs might not be played perfectly when performed live but I can’t think of a song where I would think to myself: “Now that’s gonna be tough”. We write the songs so that we can reproduce them live, so I try to write my bass lines in a way so that I can reproduce it with ease. So, when performing live, I don’t have a problem playing the songs or getting exhausted. This is why every show is memorable to me. When you don’t have to focus on your fretboard to much you can interact with your band mates and the crowd and that makes every show a great experience in my opinion.
Oh, now, I simply want to touch base on your wickedly novel split CD “Tribute to Randy” with Spain’s Witchtower, which, by association, I’ve been digging like a rabid Spaniel (especially the freaky 2014 titular debut!). I know the band’s fondness for the Danish metal legend stems from your first introduction, namely “It's got to be Love” (great job on the cover by the way, and what a wise, sagacious choice all told!). From there, it what only a matter of course to contact Witchtower’s grand vizier, Victor, in regards to a possible collaboration – you can bet he was in like a dog on a bone! Would you care to elaborate a little on Blackslash’s relationship with Witchtower? Does it go beyond mutual Randy worship at all? I dare say, concert wise, the two would make ideal bedfellows, as their respective styles niftily contrast each other!
A: There isn’t a deep relationship I’m afraid. We are fans of their music and vice versa. Playing a small tour together would be amazing and I really hope we can make it happen sometime in the future.
Speaking of which, what kind of gear, including instruments, does the band use live?
A: Our guitar player Daniel is playing some sort of Gibson Flying V, the other guitar player prefers his Explorer. David plays on a Yamaha drum kit and we prefer Peavy Amps. I play a Mexican Fender Jazz Bass with flat wound strings on it and a Badass II bridge as well as a Squire Precision Bass with a Hartke amp.
Are there any plans for more covers in the future, from Randy or otherwise?
A: I’m not sure. We started out as a cover band, but writing music is much more fun than covering.
And in regards to the bright and snazzy cover art, do you plan on keeping the “monster” formula, as in an Eddie/Iron Maiden style, for future albums?
A: Maybe one more time but after that the chapter must end. We play on keeping the magician though, as he is on all of our album covers. The “Eddie” was just meant to be a monster controlled by the magician on the “SL” cover. It was the artist’s decision to make it look similar to Eddie and when it was time for the next cover we wanted to put the old artwork into a new setting. “LSA” is like a sequel to “SL”, so putting everything that “SL” stood for into a futuristic setting made so much sense to us. And the artist for “LSA” did exactly that. I told him: “take the monster and put him into an Ultraman costume” – he delivered.
Time for our “weird questions”!!! Is/are there a particular(s) metal or rock album which floored you so much it turned you into an inveterate metal head for life? (Yes, I know, this may appear like a dumb question!)...
A: My first single I bought was Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” when I was 9 years old (I was born in 1991). That really influenced me. I also listened to my father’s copy of “The Number of the Beast” without realizing that this was Heavy Metal. I just enjoyed the harder sound and the fast tempo.
How old were you guys when you first picked instruments and/or committed to play heavy metal like the bands you love/grew up with?
A: I can only speak for myself I’m afraid. I started playing the guitar when I was 8 or 9 years old and switched to electric bass when I was around 15 years old. Heavy Metal was our favorite, mutual genre of music in our band, so we always knew that if we were to write songs, they had to be metal as fuck.
When/where was the very first Blackslash show?
A: In a garage in Donaueschingen, which was our rehearsing space back then. We played maybe 8 covers for a friend’s birthday. As for playing our own songs – I think we played at our local youth center.
If you could visit/tour anywhere in the World, where would it be and why?
A: USA – because if you make it there, well, then you got it. England – because it is the home of so many great bands. Japan – because of it’s awesome culture and interesting underground Metal scene.
What are your views on Artificial Intelligence (and its scary-as-Hell implications!), which is seemingly around the bend and could be fully developed sooner than we think? Are we, as humans, technologically going off the deep end (like lemmings)?
A: I never really thought about this stuff, as I will probably be dead before this kinda stuff really takes off.
I ask because I’m reading a crazy, eye-opening book on AI by James Barrat titled “Our Final Invention” (brrr!) and well, you can’t deny the pissed off cyborg on the cover to “Lightning Strikes Again” directly begs the question!
A: Good for you, I also love reading and I might give this book a chance.
Are you guys pursuing studies at an academic level, or for now, it’s purely “rock ‘n roll”?
A: I am studying to become an Elementary School teacher and my final exams will be in September, which is why we don’t play shows right now. Our singer Clemens is already an Elementary School teacher and the other guys also work and have finished college.
Any killer 2018 metal albums we should know about for which the joy of discovery is still ours to behold?
A: Shadowkiller – “Guardians of the Tower Ghost”, and Greta Van Flet – “From the Fires” (although it’s technically from 2017).
Lastly, do you have any last minute shout outs you’d like to channel through Grande Rock, be they bands or people?
A: Shout out to all the people that bought our new album on bandcamp, on CD or listen to it on Spotify. Vinyls are coming soon, promised!
This wraps up the interview! Thank you Alec for your valuable input and we wish Blackslash many more hot rocking knicker twisters in the future!
A: Thanks for the interesting questions and talk soon.