As part of MetalTalk's commitment to bring you new and exciting bands, I sat down with Forsaken Age, a band in the classic Heavy Metal mould who are based in Auckland, New Zealand to find out how the band started, the low-down on their debut album, 'Back From Extinction', and to find out about the Metal scene in New Zealand.
I started off by asking the band how long they've been together to which drummer Tam Cramer told me that they started out in 2009 as a covers band called Twisted Metal before changing their repertoire in 2010 to original material and their name to Forsaken Age.
I delve a bit further and ask what the motivating factor was to move from being a covers band to one that performs original material to which vocalist Chrissy Scarfe gives me the short answer that they did it "(to) keep Classic Heavy Metal alive" before Cramer explains further telling me that "I think we all felt that there was more to us than simply going out and playing other people's songs. Don't get me wrong, we loved the songs that we were playing, but we just felt that we should be writing and performing our own stuff which would be a better way of expressing ourselves."
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"We were also swimming in a sea of Nu-Metal and Metal-Core bands", adds bass player Lee Scarfe. "In my opinion, both genres are dominated by trendy hipsters who wouldn't know real Metal if they caught their mummy fucking it, so we wanted to bring back real Metal - y'know, balls out, unapologetic metal! If you don't like it... leave the hall."
Cramer adds to the sentiment telling me: "I think too, that there's also a tendency for people to look down on covers bands – wrongly in my opinion, and that spurred us on to do more original material as well, to be honest."
Moving on, I ask the band about their debut album, 'Back From Extinction', which was released independently in 2012. First off, I ask them what it felt like to have an album actually out there to which Cramer tells me that for him, "(It was) like a huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders! We recorded, and produced it ourselves, so it'd taken a long time to get to that point. At one point in the past, though, we had it all ready to be released but at the very last moment we decided that we weren't at all happy with it, so we went back and rewrote and rearranged most of the songs then re-recorded them. For me it was happiness that it was finally over, mixed with excitement and a bit of fear about how it would be received."
Lee Scarfe explained to me that "(we) were very proud (of what we'd achieved) and also humbled that the response from the public and our fans was a lot better than we'd ever imagined. Music to me is very personal and it's really gut wrenching allowing other people to have it. In saying that, we did put out an album of proper heavy metal. No bullshit - just proper Heavy Metal."
With the first album out and available to buy from Amazon and iTunes, as well as the band's website, the next question to the band is an obvious one – how are preparations for the second album coming along? "We're working on the songs at the moment," confirms Cramer before adding that "there are already a couple in our live set which were written after the first album was released, and the reaction when we play those new ones live has been really good, so we're really looking forward to getting them recorded. There are a couple of others that we're still working on to get them ready to play live, and we will record them sometime in the future."
"The writing process is the fun part", Lee Scarfe tells me. "We're lucky this time round there are no time constraints, and we can write them and then test them in a live situation and then lay them down in the studio once they're refined and sounding how they sound in our heads at the moment!"
When pushed for more details regarding recording dates, the band are unsure when they'll be studio bound, with Cramer explaining that "there are a number of options we're looking at and we'll make a final decision once we're ready to start recording" before Lee Scarfe adds that "we want to produce the best Heavy Metal we can. This next lot (of tracks), we'll be pouring all our blood, sweat and tears into. This will be our best offering with no compromise, no quarter and no mercy given. This one will also be on vinyl!" he adds with a wry smile.
I enquire if the band has anyone in mind for producing the album or whether they will be self-producing it to which Cramer confirms that "no-one at this stage. We've been told that Mutt Lange is busy – apparently" before Lee Scarfe adds with a smile that "we were going to message Bob Rock, y'know, but then we realised he's already ruined one Metal band so let's not tempt fate, eh? Seriously, though, we're looking for someone who will be on our wavelength and who will give zero fucks for anything but Heavy Metal.
"If all else fails we'll produce it ourselves – even though this is a hard task and that inevitably leads to some random gladiatorial combat and jousting tournaments in the studio."
It's guitarist Warren Davies who has the last comment on the subject, telling me that "if Andy Sneap wants the job we'd be very happy – he does good work particularly on the Accept albums."
Bringing the interview back to the realms of seriousness, I ask the band about their song writing process to which Cramer explains: "Warren and Lee come up with riffs while Chrissy writes the majority of the lyrics, although I did write the lyrics for three of the songs on the album. Once Chrissy has written lyrics, we work on them together usually making small changes here and there.
"Obviously a riff and a set of lyrics isn't a song, so once we get together in the rehearsal room, we all throw ideas into the mix and contribute ideas about the structure, and arrangements to get to the finished article."
Chrissy Scarfe explains a bit further: "Yeah, I write most of the lyrics with some help from Tam, who also wrote lyrics for a few of the songs – one of them in ten minutes, just prior to recording, but once a song is there, there's a lot of discussion between the whole band with ideas and changes that can happen before we're all 100% happy with the end result. It may not work for some other bands, but it's the way that works best for us."
Lee Scarfe adds with a mischievous grin: "If you want the truth, we have a sweat shop in Bangladesh that churns the songs out for us. They also double as a call centre who can get you a really good deal on your current mobile phone plan! (laughs)"
When asked what the lyrical themes of the bands songs are, it's Lee Scarfe who jumps in first telling me: "As far as the 'Back From Extinction' album is concerned, the songs we wrote covered things like the Highland Clan battles, a war diary, being on the run from the Law, horses in various states of evilness and disrepair as well as insanity and those devil drugs. Some of the up coming subjects that we're tackling with the new material include Satan himself, of course, pleurisy, Vikings, and hopefully sex with beautiful women – quite a hotchpotch of subjects then, but something for (almost) everyone!"
At this point Cramer adds: "There isn't any particular theme, but we do touch upon subjects as Lee has said like historical battles, World War II as well as human conditions like drug abuse and psychiatric illness as well as the compulsory 'fists in the air' type Heavy Metal anthems."
Chrissy Scarfe adds: "Some of the songs have come from the strangest origins," which brings me nicely to the subject of where their inspiration does actually come from. Cramer has his tongue firmly in his cheek by telling me: "The Cooking Channel and Partick Thistle Football Club" are his inspirations while in a reversal of roles, Lee Scarfe comes over all serious (almost) by saying that his inspiration comes from "Manowar! Actually, Heavy Metal in general, harking back to when, as a kid, you would first open that vinyl or CD and (pauses), that feeling!"
Again Chrissy Scarfe sums it up nicely by telling me that Forsaken Age, like most bands, are influenced by "day to day life, movies and books we watch/read. Anything really that means something to one or more of us."
So, does the band have any timescales for the second album or do they have any plans for an interim release? "No specific dates as such," explains Cramer before adding: "We do plan to release something in 2014, though." Davies nods in agreement before adding: "At the moment, we're just concentrating on writing new material" before Lee Scarfe says that when it's ready, "the next release will be CD, download and Vinyl and we may release a preview track free before the album comes out too."
Obviously work on the new album takes precedent, but I ask if the band have any confirmed tour dates lined up for 2014 yet? "We do have some local gigs lined up over the early part of 2014. We've also got a few things still at the discussion phase, but any gigs will be announced on the band website and Facebook page once they are confirmed – so keep watching!"
Lee Scarfe resumes his role of band joker by telling me: "Tam is paying for all of us to go over and play Glasgow (his home town) and we're all very excited about it – except Tam, because he didn't know anything about it. Until now! (laughs). We do have some local gigs lined over the next couple of months and, hopefully, a couple of international support spots as well as a few potential New Zealand festival type shows, which are still to be confirmed."
Talking of support slots, I mention that the band have already supported (ex-Judas Priest vocalist) Tim 'Ripper' Owens, (Symphonic Power Metal band) Nightwish and Scottish Metal band Alestorm over the past couple of years, and I ask what was that like and what did the band learn from the experience?
"For me personally, opening for 'Ripper' was a great experience, as he's a bit of hero of mine," Cramer explains. "His professionalism was amazing and his attitude towards his singing and his fans was amazing too. Opening for Nightwish was interesting; they were very good at what they do, and very slick! We also opened for (Finnish Folk Metal band) Korpiklaani, and watching the effect that they had on the crowd was just a mind blowing experience.
We have supported more since then but we learned this isn't an easy life and these bands are not only hard working, but are seriously talented and very under rated. I also learned that pirates drink a bit (laughs)."
Chrissy Scarfe told me that from her point of view, "we learned as a band that it doesn't matter if you are playing to twenty people or eight hundred, but it's our job to make sure everyone there is having a great time and are nicely primed for the headliner, or if we are the last band on a bill, that the audience leave wanting more. It's a simple lesson but one that we learned early on and put it to good use at every gig we play now."
So, I ask, what can someone coming to a Forsaken Age live show expect? "A fucking good time!" is the short answer from Cramer before he goes on to tell me: "We celebrate classic Heavy Metal at our gigs, and we want people to be a part of the show, to leave our gigs sweaty and exhausted but with a huge smile on their faces. What we're trying to do is to return to the Metal shows of the 1980s, when bands actually interacted with the audience rather than staring at the floor and mumbling a couple of words between songs."
Lee Scarfe adds: "Our live show is like no other. In the traditions of old bands, regardless of the venue, we play it like it is our biggest show. There are no stops; it is attack from start to finish. You will leave our show knackered, like you have just been satisfied by a gorgeous harem after a decade in the desert," while Chrissy Scarfe and Davies both chime in too, that "you can expect a kick ass, head banging night of Heavy Metal. We make our shows as fun as possible with some serious old school Heavy Metal that your dad would love."
The band went out on a headline tour of New Zealand last year, and I ask them how they found the experience? "Interesting!” says Cramer before adding: "It was tiring but fun, meeting lots of new people, playing with bands we'd never played with before. It was good, and we learned a lot about the logistics of touring and what we should and shouldn't do on the next one – because there will be a next one."
"It was great," adds Chrissy Scarfe, "playing with some kick ass New Zealand bands – we had a blast. It was hard with all the travel at times, y'know, but it was all worth it! Spending that much time in a van or a car with your band mates certainly gives you a new appreciation of them."
Asked if there are any places they enjoy performing in, the band have differing opinions with Lee Scarfe quickly jumping in with Masterton and Wellington (both towards the southern tip of the north island of New Zealand) whilst Chrissy tells me that the Kings Arms in Auckland is a favourite - great sound and great atmosphere. Cramer is somewhat less selective, telling me: "Nowhere really stands out for me, I just like playing!" - a fine sentiment indeed.
Winding up our chat together, I ask them what they (realistically) want the band to achieve? Cramer is first to answer: "To keep playing music that people want to listen to and watch us play live, but not to kill each other in the process!"
Lee is characteristically jokey saying that he'd like them to be "the first Heavy Metal band other than Iron Maiden to do a tour in (Maiden's own chartered aeroplane) Ed Force One," whilst Chrissy tells me that she would like the band to "keep gaining momentum and to always strive for better – to keep writing kick ass Heavy Metal and to love what we do."
With that, we part ways but with so much enthusiasm in the band for the songs they write and the music they play, you can't help but hope that they really do get what they want, if not in 2014 certainly in the next few years.
Forsaken Age are:
Chrissy Scarfe – Vocals
Warren Davies – Guitar
Lee Scarfe – Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals
Tam Cramer – Drums/Backing Vocals
Forsaken Age Online:
Official Website: http://forsakenage.co.nz