Friday, March 31, 2017

interview: Cellador

Cellador is back on the streets again big time! As you will read in this interview with the band’s mastermind Chris Petersen, Cellador was never over, even though it might have seemed that way to people on the outside, like this publication. Now they have a new album of fast, melodic traditional metal music and it is fully available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and most all the streaming music sites, like Bandcamp. Expect gigantic choruses, sharp-and-fast riffs flying everywhere and songs that will be welcomed by audiences into melodies and singing. The new album is called Off the Grid.
Off the Grid is a very catchy, fast and melodic album!
I'm glad you thought the album was catchy, as we try to write sing-a-long memorable songs with high energy. As opposed to our last album Enter Deception, on Off the Grid we tried to keep songs as focused as possible, and shorter in length, and really in every way it turned out amazing.
What can you tell us about where you recorded Off the Grid? How long were you recording? Who plays what instruments on the album?
All band operations are based out of Denver, CO where the majority of us live. Our keyboardist Diego Valadez is based out of Los Angeles, CA, but commutes monthly for all band matters and of course all the shows we do.
We recorded about 2/3's of the album at my own personal home studio (what we call the "Celladark Studio") and the remainder was recorded at our former band rehearsal room in Arvada, CO. The recording process was quite spread out, we started the tracking process in December 2014 and were working on it all the way up to June 2015. We'd spend about 2 days a week recording for a couple hours each session. Sometimes if a set of shows were coming up we would break from the recording process to instead put focus on rehearsing. It was a very unstressful process, we were really able to really give time and effort to all elements of this album, redo or re-record parts we wanted to improve on etc. Once the tracking was finished we sent all the recordings off to Massachusetts where our mixer Peter Rutcho went at them and by July 2015 delivered a very outstanding mix and master to us.
I recorded all the vocals and guitar tracks on the new album, and also wrote all the songs and lyrics. I had say in the drums but everything was approved by Nick Mccalister our drummer obviously before going on the album. Diego Valadez arranged and recorded all keyboards and keyboard solos from his studio in Los Angeles, I didn't have much say in those, he basically sent over his tracks and we used them. James Pickett tracked all the bass guitar over at my studio while I helmed the controls. Two guests also contributed; Todd Seitz played a guitar solo on the song "Shimmering Status" and Peter Rutcho played a keyboard solo on "Wake Up the Tyrant."
Cellador has not published new music since 2011, correct? Was Cellador broken up? Why the long wait?
Technically the EP "Honor Forth" was released in June 2013, but you are correct that the songs from that EP were written and showcased as early as 2011 before I had a full lineup.
The band never officially broke up, but we did have a hiatus period with little updates. The lineup for our first album persisted in various ways until mid-2009 when our singer and drummer at the time finally parted ways. At this time I relocated to Denver, CO and while I still did have a bassist and guitarist, they were not interested in participating in the band long-distance (we were all originally from Omaha, NE), so I was essentially on my own to reform the band. So I began seeking new band members in my new home city while writing and recording the songs for our EP "Honor Forth." It took a little bit as I was very particular in who I was looking for in band members, also not to mention this style of music doesn't exactly have competent freely available musicians all over the place. Regardless by 2012 I had a newly completed lineup and we began playing shows again and essentially functioning as a complete band. We officially released "Honor Forth" via hard CD, independently distributed, and began the process of seeking a new label home. Long story short, we spent 2014-2016 soliciting and negotiating with labels remotely and had a few hiccups that cost us 2 years of time. By Fall 2016, already having the new album completed and waiting to be released, I got in contact with Scarlet Records and solidified a deal myself for the band and our new album.
So in short: a major lineup overhaul was the first delay, and then failed label negotiations were the second. Had we done things differently, this album could easily have been released 2 years ago. But it is what it is, it’s finally out and honestly things turned out better this way in the end.
I remember when your debut came out in 2006: Enter Deception. Cellador was an exciting new band playing fast power metal. Interestingly enough, your style still sounds the same! Years have passed but Cellador sounds like Cellador. For you, what has changed since 2006 and what remains the same? Are you more ready now to deal with problems that a band faces in the world of music today?
Well, this is the main reason I kept going under this band name, I knew it would sound the same! I wrote all the music on Enter Deception and again wrote all the music on Off the Grid. I still have the same vision for this band, same goals I wanted to accomplish and same desire of style. I'm just more focused and polished these days, more mature but eager as ever. I admit I think part of it was also having a bit of a personal vendetta. The way the old lineup fell apart, I felt a little rejected. The band was seeing major success, we had great things lined up operating the way we were operating, and then it was all taken away because band members couldn't get along. I wanted to show everyone what it means to really control your own destiny, especially if you have a goal you want to accomplish. I wanted to show the power of persistence.
What has changed? Oh man, lots. There’s so many more bands nowadays, and so many more standards you have to meet. YouTube is essential, all bands must have not just music videos, but lots of regularly posted video content. We weren't much of a video-genic band back in the day aside from our music video, but nowadays we need to step it up with video updates, playthroughs, interviews etc. There's also much more bands touring, almost every band local or national tours these days. There's no mystique or glamour to it whatsoever. This means bands are getting paid less, and given that there's more supply of bands it’s a listeners market. Bands are finding themselves having to pay industry-insiders just to get a connection with someone who can give you opportunity. "Pay to Play" is more prevalent than ever, and common now even in smaller cities across the country.
I almost wanna say playing metal is a suckers game, I would never pursue it as a sole means of income. But it’s a loyal and deep subculture, and I don't think it’s ever going to go anywhere. It’s a great creative outlet and passion to be a part of. You just have to see it for what it is and have fun or you'll find yourself quickly exhausted.
Cellador used to be on Metal Blade Records, but now you are on Scarlet Records. Is Metal Blade not interested in power metal? How did you relationship with Scarlet Records begin?
They like power metal, in fact we were one of their spotlight bands for a minute there. I got in touch with them for the first time in 2-3 years back after I reformed the lineup. They thought we had broken up, checked some legalities regarding our status with them, and ultimately decided to let us go. It happens.
As mentioned above, we began a long drawn out label search beginning in late 2013. We had several interested labels, and tried contracting with a management company to see if we could negotiate a better deal, or something with a bigger label. That didn't end up working out after two years of trying. Several labels offered deals but then were not able to commit for their own various reasons (financial difficulties, changes in contact persons, etc.). It just took way longer than expected, it was a major cause for our delay. In summer 2016, after these failed negotiations were officially in the past, we found ourselves back at square one with a fully completed album and no label. So I got in touch with Scarlet Records myself, a label I honestly should have contacted much earlier. They were interested and so here we are now.
Your singer Chris Petersen has a good power metal singing voice, but he was not the original vocalist, right? How did he become the singer? Did he just try it out? Why didn’t he do it before? I like his voice. I’m wondering how one discovers that one can sing power metal.
I am the singer so thanks for the kind words! Again hindsight is 20/20, taking up vocals was something I should have done much earlier in the band history. It would have saved so many headaches and made things so much easier.
I only took up the vocalist position because we couldn't find a good singer. I'll admit I always thought singing would be fun, I was just too shy and insecure to sincerely take it up until necessity really called for it. After years of searching for Cellador's next vocalist with no success, my bassist James convinced me to take the plunge and fill the position myself. At that point I already was demoing vocals on my song ideas, and making a little headway on vocal skills. I just needed to develop the stamina and better ear for pitch that came with actual practice in front of a mic and live backing band, not to mention all while playing guitar at the same time. I am not a natural to singing by any means, it took a few years to get to where I'm at on the album. It was incredibly frustrating at first, and I'm sure I sounded horrible in the beginning, but the band was very patient in helping me practice and learn to sing the songs.
I gave the vocal instrument the same effort I gave guitar and songwriting when I first started those areas, and still feel like an intermediate ever learning student of singing to this day. Recording the vocals on Off the Grid absolutely pushed me to a new level, as I had to really REALLY learn to sing to a close degree of exact pitch. Recording offers no small room for the kind of mistakes you can get away with in a live setting, unless you want to autotune and sound really fake which is something I didn't want to do.
Your song “Swallow Your Pride” brings the blasting into the power metal. Cellador is fast metal, but with the blasting, the level goes even higher. Do you believe in incorporating a bit of extreme metal speed into your music?
We are all influenced by metal styles beyond traditional power and heavy metal. I like blasts here and there for intensity sometimes, and like a lot of classic death metal bands. Enter Deception actually had more blast beats, but on this album "Swallow Your Pride" is the one song with them. It’s actually the oldest song on the new album, written a little after the songs on Enter Deception were recorded, so it still retains some of that "extreme" element and other elements I was especially more focused on during that era.
We don't desire to simply be labeled as a "power metal" in fact we usually just call ourselves melodic metal. We have rock, extreme, and other non-traditional power metal elements in our music, and in the future we'll probably be incorporating even more varied styles down the road. We've been working on new material already and our new guitarist Eric Meyers is bringing even more different styles to the table (all Cellador pre-approved of course).
The song “Good Enough” (Cindy Lauper cover) is a good contrast because it’s really melodic, almost like a power metal pop song. It’s so good it seems like a really short song. This might be my favorite song. Or, at least, it’s my favorite today. Who knows, tomorrow it might be “Sole Survivors” or “Wake up the Tyrant.” Would you be willing to play “Good Enough” live?! Is that a hard song to pull off live, vocally speaking?
"Good Enough" was a last-minute idea to put on the album, we actually set aside an original song to make room for this one. Despite it being a cover I'm glad you like it as your fav because I like how the song turned out. The drums are great and James did an amazing job on the slap bass if you can hear it going on in there. I am a big 80's pop music fan and thought this song could use a good "metalized" version because it was very catchy and fun to sing, not to mention it reeks of nostalgia because it’s from the movie "The Goonies" which is a childhood favorite of mine and I'm sure a lot of other 80's/90's kids. It didn't take to long to record, I put together the demo version on guitar in a single day. We don't play this one live, or not yet at least, but we'll see how the feedback goes, maybe we'll do something with it like a video.
Looking back at how Cellador’s trajectory has turned out after all these years, what regrets do you have? The new album is a convincing return, but do you agree what you disappeared for a while? Or, at least, maybe I just did not know. Is your plan to make another album in less time than you have so far? Cellador takes as long as Def Leppard and Boston take to make an album!
Again, for me the band never had a break. Since 2005 I have been nonstop either writing, recording, touring, auditioning band members, or managing band affairs. But you are right there were major delays and periods with little updates, not to mention no new music. In addition I have a life outside music which at times, if it called, I'd put the band more as a side priority for a period of time until things pick up (like now). But hopefully delays are a thing of the past. We have a great lineup now and great set-up to churn out some good music and steady performances. Myself having taken over vocals makes things much easier; I can write, record, sing, and produce a good majority of the band's music these days. Probably my biggest regret is not having learned to sing earlier, or not having the confidence to take things into my own hands, etc. I was too reliant on others, but nowadays that is no longer the case. It is our plan to put out another release, in fact we have several songs written and tracked already. Eric, my new 2nd guitarist, has been a great teammate in the writing process, and has really stepped up to be my "checks and balances" guy to make sure we keep meeting deadlines, goals, etc.
Do you have any plans to take your power metal on the road in the U.S.? Is Scarlet going to help take your music to Europe?! Do you want to tour? What has been your experience in touring the U.S.? Are there American supporters of power metal?
We're looking at ideas now. We don't want to be sitting around without representing our masterpiece album, that’s for sure. We're shopping European and other international agents as we speak. Scarlet Records being an Italian label has really given us a big push in Europe, so we're trying to go there. But likely we'll make something at least in North America happen.
As of right now, we're confirmed to support Yngwie Malmsteen at the Summit Music Hall in Denver, CO on May 23rd. It should be one of our first bigger shows in support of this new album.
Yup, as stated above they are pushing us in Europe. We've already seen a lot of positive acclaim, near perfect to perfect reviews of the album from webzines over there. Again, it’s a matter of finding the right agent who can get us over there.
The last full-fledged tour we did was in 2014 with thrash bands Hatchet and Exmortus, hitting most of the Western USA over the course of a month. Touring North America is mostly all we're used to so I can't really comment on how it compares to Europe. There's always good shows and bad shows. Some cities proved well for us on more than one occasion (Detroit, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, etc.), and there's always surprise cities too, such as Midland, TX which was a great show.
There's definitely American supporters of power metal, or at least American supporters of us! We're very excited to hit the East Coast USA where we haven't been in years, and where a majority of our fans live.
Do you have any plans or news that you would like to share at this point?
Our first video single for "Shadowfold" is online now. Our track-by-track album breakdown video, where I give a few thoughts on each song off the album, is also online now. We're in the process of creating the 2nd single and first "real music video" for the album now. Also we have some fun playthough videos coming, such as keyboard vids, drum vids, singing vids, etc. We're very proud of this album and will do everything we can to make sure it’s really supported with good video content and promotion.
Thank you for your time and music! The new album is not “good enough.” It’s wonderful!
Much obliged :D. Feels great to be back in full force!
scarletrecords.bandcamp.com/album/off-the-grid
cellador.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/Cellador/

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