by LTH Staff
Louder Than Hell interviewed Pyrael back in November. At that time, the goth/hard rock act was hard at working completing its debut CD “Insanity.” Since that time, the New York-based group has finished the recording, which is available for streaming and download at the band’s Reverb Nation and Facebook pages. “Insanity” is a dark rock album that focuses on the idea of insanity in the world. It follows riff structures from metal progenitors such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Danzig while incorporating synth-laden compositions best utilized in goth rock clubs and harmonies pin pointed all over the musical map.
Pyrael mastermind and jack of all musical trades--Steve Schwarz spoke to Louder Than Hell about creating the album. Stephen Baldassarre, the man behind the synths, organ, percussion and production (he helped Schwarz produce the album) also chimed in about his part in the “insanity."
LTH: What's going on with the band right now? What are you currently working on?
Steve: We are working hard on completing our debut CD, Insanity. It's been a long process due to time constraints, daily life, illness, and distance. But we are finally completing the title inspiring final track, “The Last Hurrah – Insanity”. Once it's complete, it's off to mastering and the presses!!
LTH: People become a musician for a wide variety of reasons. What are the factors that originally inspired you to play music? Are you playing for the same reasons today as you were when you started? Why or why not?
Steve: When I was little, like 4 years old, my mom and dad bought me a KISS guitar. I loved the thing. When I was seven, I started taking guitar lessons, but I lost interest in the rudiments and the fact that I couldn't play a single song. I quit lessons and just goofed around. As I got older, I wanted to explore other instruments, including the sax, trombone, Violin, Piano, percussion, and seriously learn the guitar. My mom always had music playing in the house, and would take any sign of creativity as a reason to expand and jump in with both feet. So I've always loved music. Today? I'm still playing for the love of music, but now it's not as much for just the enjoyment but for my addiction to it. It's part of my very being, and weather I am financially successful or not, I will never stop. It would be like cutting off my arms and legs to do so.
LTH: How would you describe your music? Can you recall a description someone has given about your music that is the most accurate?
Steve: Darkness. It's what is inside me, what I see in the world, and what haunts my psyche. The album is about insanity in it's different forms. Not just dementia or mental illness though. It's about the insanity we create. Like war, child abuse, that chick you obsessed over and ruined yourself for, the Psychic Vampires that cause their own troubles and prey on the sympathies of others and of course politics. If you look around you, you'll find the world is crazy and cruel. Some of this just “is”, but we create it, we design it, and we can change it.
LTH: Choose one or more specific things about the music on your album to talk about. This could be guitars, lyrics, drums, production, etc. Please explain what you like about this aspect of the album and how you created it.
Steve: I think I'll pick production for this. Frank Fisher is an amazing engineer. He's worked with a lot of bigger acts over his long career, and just knows where to put things. He's meticulous too; every bit of this CD has passed his critique, which is more particular than ours most times! He's not involved with this project because of money or for the hell of it. Frank doesn't take on clients unless he strongly believes in the project. He's just as much a part of the band as anyone else. When I confronted him about doing the CD, he was happy to. He was only supposed to MIX it! What went from there made him a co-producer. He's added invaluable feedback, and helped steer the direction of songs in ways I never imagined.
LTH: What and who are some of your influences? Fans love getting to know their favorite artists. Please give them a few details about why you like creating music and what things inspire you to make it.
Steve: I'm a fan of most music. If I like it, I'll listen to it. I love classical music, especially Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. My all-time favorite piece being “St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain” more commonly called “A Night on Bald Mountain”. My rock and metal influences stem from standards like Black Sabbath, Dio, Danzig, Deep Purple, Megadeth and Iron Maiden, but also include Simon and Garfunkel, The Outlaws, Pure Prairie League. I'm not that big of a country fan, but I do enjoy Clint Black, David Allen Coe and Johnny Cash. I have a deep appreciation for Bluegrass, especially the greats – Bluegrass takes technical ability to a new level, it's the speed metal of country! Music is an art that can pull it's audience into another world. Listen to Bare Mountain, close your eyes; you can see the story without hearing a single word. I strive to tell a story, to bring it to the listeners and to perhaps open their minds to what I see.
LTH: Every person is a product of his or her environment. Would you say the music in your home area has influenced your group? Please explain why or why not your area has inspired your music.
Steve: I'm not that active locally. I've seen a few of the local bands, and made friends with them, but this project is strewn across time zones. We've done all the work via the internet and Post office. As a matter of fact, we (Stephen, Eric, Frank and I) have never met in person! I'd say it's gotta be the strangest project I've ever worked on in that regard.
LTH: Have you opened for any major acts or toured? What is the first performance that pops into your head when thinking about your gigs?
Steve: I've worked with signed artists in the past. Major acts? No. When I was younger, I played with Dead On Arrival, and Cellar Dweller. DOA toured the NYC and the Jersey Shore; We didn't open for people though. Mostly just larger Bars and Smaller Clubs.
Stephen: A few years ago, I worked in a band that had some regional hits back in the ‘60s. We got to tour with some great acts like Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Comets, The Turtles etc. and that was a blast.
LTH: What can your fans expect from your shows? What aspect of your band brings in crowds?
Steve: Can I let you know when that happens? Being that we have never played in the same room together, It will be really cool when it happens. We and our fans will get to find out together!
LTH: Chemistry within a band is very important. When the band originally formed, what was it about playing with the other musicians that impressed you the most? What is it about the chemistry between the members that makes the band unique?
Steve: I wrote these songs over a few years on my own. When I decided to make a go of professionally releasing them, they were originally only me. I recorded all the songs at my home studio. I sequenced the drums using Cakewalk's session drummer and various samples. Then I decided that I needed real drums. So I hired Stephen to record the tracks. He stayed close to what I had programmed, but I gave him free reign over the drums, make them his own and embellish as he seen fit. From there, it exploded. Stephen has added analog synths to Nightmare, the organ – a REAL Hammond you hear in “All's Well.” Also, he did the 50's guitars on Little One. And the drums in Cowain are completely his creation. I originally had only sparse instruments (synths, guitar and vocals). He added the drums on his own, and that inspired me to add bass. Eric did the high vocals on “Little One,” and I sincerely wish he had jumped on board sooner. He's an amazing vocalist and guitarist. I hope he joins the tour when it happens, and also is involved in the next album.
Stephen: Make no mistake, this is Steve's project and I consider myself a hired hand. That said, I wanted to respect what I thought Steve's wishes are as much as possible but add my own flare. I kept waiting for him to ask me to redo something, citing "Oh, I don't like what you did here", but I guess that never happened. I think having a fairly mutual musical vocabulary is important. I don't get into the Big 80s hard rock/metal stuff as much as he does, but he's a great writer and composer, so that made the interesting challenge of adding drums almost as the last step a lot more enjoyable. It also helps to get along with the other guys. If there's even one member you can't stand on your team, it becomes a job instead of fun.
LTH: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your music. Do you have a special event like a concert or tour coming up that you'd like to discuss? What's next for the band?
Steve: At the moment, we have a few MP3s for sale. These are NOT what will be on the album and limited time only. We are partnered with my close friend Marcus Kane and his Project Vampire Banquet, on an annual charity event called “Black Friday with the Banquet”. We raise money for a toy drive to benefit underprivileged children. This year, I've offered up the profits from all MP3s and merchandise to go directly to the toy drive. Which THIS year benefits the children affected by Hurricane Sandy. Next for us? No idea. Let’s find out together!
Louder Than Hell Magazine