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In Words: Lions Share

- Lars Chriss & Tony Niva - May 2001 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Lars Chriss - Apr. 2009 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Lars Chriss
© Lions' Share

Lars Chriss - April 20th 2009 (by email)

Lars Chriss is Lions' Share and with the new album Dark Hours is in the stores. They haven't been touring a lot lately, will this change? Mr. Chriss agreed on answering some questions... Here we go!

Emotional Coma was released on AFM Records, now you are at Blistering Records... And I think you're involved in the label, right? Can you enlighten us?

Yes, I'm president and co owner of Blistering Records. In early 2008 I was approached by two investors that wanted to start a record label. They knew I've been long time in the business working with many different distributors, promotion companies, press etc. They wanted me to bring along Lions'Share and my side-project Road To Ruin and of course it made sense to me as well to get a royalty no other label can compete with and the overall control I wouldn't get elsewhere. The guys at AFM are like family to me and we still work together on a couple of projects though.

Emotional Coma was kind of a comeback for Lions' Share... And with a new band you have a different sound. Did it just developed that way with the new band? Or do you wanted to change the sound compared to the old stuff?

During the six year break after Entrance I decided to separate my influences a bit to get a more focused product. Instead of including all my influences under one umbrella like maybe I did with the first four albums. I decided that Lions' Share should be pure metal and other influences should be released as side-projects like we did with Road To Ruin. This way it was easy for me to hand pick a new line-up that fit the direction I had in mind. Of course everybody in a line-up contributes to the final result as always, but to answer your question, it was a conscious move. However going back to the old albums they have the same kind of influences too, but maybe mixed with other influences like prog metal etc. My riffs have always had that Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Megadeth touch though.

Another obvious change is more visible... On the first albums you had the dolphin and now you have this creature... Also a symbol that the sound get darker or heavier? A creature which fits better to your new sound?

Only the second album Two had the dolphins. For Emotional Coma we decided to create a mascot figure that we could use on the album covers, merchandise etc. Pretty much like Iron Maiden's Eddie. We had an artist play around with different drafts until we were happy. I think especially the Dark Hours cover is stunning. Hope we can put it out as vinyl too at some point.

I think you played mainly in Sweden supporting Emotional Coma live, right? And Magic Circle Festival... How was it to play the Manowar festival?

The Magic Circle Festival was great! The Manowar guys have always been very cool to us. We first met them when we did an arena tour opening up for Dio, Motörhead and Manowar years ago. The stage was the biggest I've seen and by the time we played we had like 10,000 headbangers there. We have two songs from that show on Manowar's DVD from the festival.

Have there been no offers for a tour? Or just bad timing?

We got the offer to open up for Saxon and Iced Earth on their European tour. Unfortunately we couldn't get everything together since the first date was too close for us to get properly rehearsed, making shirts and also it was over two months till our new album would be released. We have toured with both bands in the past so we already knew them plus it would have been a perfect match musically so it really hurt my heart we couldn't do it. We'll have to look around, if we can find another tour that makes sense musically and economically later this year.

How long did it take you to record Dark Hours?

We recorded it in different sessions between February and December 2008. We did rhythm guitars and half of the vocals in Feb. Drums in April. We played some shows in Holland and Sweden and went back and did the rest of the vocals and bass during the late summer. Guitar solos and backing vocals in the fall and the mixing at the end of the year.

Are their any songs on Dark Hours which were done for Emotional Coma, but didn't make it on that one?

Yeah, The Bottomless Pit, Behind The Curtain and King Of All The Kings were all written back then. Also most of Heavy Cross To Bear. I look at the albums as sister albums like for example Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules or Holy Diver and The Last In Line. For some reason Dark Hours has gotten a far better response though. Right now it's Top 30 on US Metal radio and it's been album of the month all over the place.

The title indicates that the album has a darker sound... Have you been through dark hours? Have you been inspired somehow by tough times you had to go through?

All lyrics are about big events that took place in the late 60s actually. This is what we mean by the dark hours. We played around with some titles featuring the word decade in it, but ended up with this in the end. Three songs are about Charles Manson. A couple about the Vietnam War, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the moon landing, Martin Luther King, the riot at The Presidio in San Francisco etc.

You chose Judas Must Die for a video. Why this song? And who is this Judas?

When the album was done we played it to a couple of 'listening groups' in different ages that we put together. They put grades on what songs they liked the best and then we compared those polls to see, if we could find a pattern. This is how we ended up picking the video song. It's inspired by the life and death of Che Guevara. Who was right and who was wrong? Who was Judas?

Would you agree that Heavy Cross To Bear sounds quite Dio-ish?

We all love Black Sabbath with Dio on vocals, so yeah I agree. This track could have been on any of the old Lions' Share albums which all have songs in this style. The Tony Iommi doom style riffing has been a big part of my style for so long now, so it's in my genes. Fans of Heavy Cross To Bear should definitely check out all our albums.

If I remember right, you are a huge fan of Ronnie James Dio... Are you curious to see Heaven & Hell at Sweden Rock Festival? I guess you'll be there...

We played there and saw them in 2007, so I'm not sure I'm going again this year. Our touring drummer Stefan always laughs at me when he thinks of it. We had a great show and did celebrate so I was a bit drunk and extra emotional during the Heaven & Hell show. I was like a little kid when they played.

Even if you haven't toured with Dio, as far as I know, but you played some tours... Do you have some video footage from some shows, so that we can expect a DVD one day?

We actually did a month of touring with Dio in the past. I was in heaven of course. To hang out with him on a daily basis and to play the same stage was something I could never dream of as a kid. He even invited me to come up on stage and play with them. I didn't of course out of respect, but it was a very kind thing of him to do in front of his whole crew and band. I always try to meet with him when he’s in Stockholm.
We have several shows filmed, so who knows. Maybe at some point there will be like a history look back or something with live clips and our promo videos.

Talking about live... So far are only Swedish gigs scheduled... Any chance we see you on tour in fall?

We sure hope so. Of course we need to find a great package musically and it must make sense economically too. For some reason most of the tours we’ve done have been in Scandinavia only. It's a shame we haven't toured more in Germany. Hopefully some cool promoter will invite us, so we can change this during 2009.

Make sure you check the web site for updates and the MySpace for samples.

I remember Lions' Share from their tour with Nevermore and Iced Earth and live they were a lot of fun. So it would be cool to see them live again and perhaps this will happen... But one thing is for sure, that with Blistering Records they have a platform to release albums and as Lars Criss is the driving force the band and the label will work hard to make it.

Claudia Ehrhardt


Lars Chriss - live 1997
© Claudia Ehrhardt

Lars Chriss & Tony Niva (by email) - May 2001

With Entrance the Swedish Lions Share released their 4th album and some European fans maybe remember them supporting Iced Earth in 1997. Line-up changes, a new album are good reasons to talk to the band. Thanks to Lars Chriss to answer my questions and also to Tony Niva.

The new album is called Entrance. Why do you chose this title?

We always have this huge problem coming up with titles for our albums. I came up with Entrance (the instrumental intro song), and Pontus thought it was pretty cool. The title actually have two meanings depending on how you pronounce it, so it turned out OK and also works great with the cover artwork.

You have two new band members. Singer Andy Engberg and keyboarder Kay Backlund left for personal reason (quoting the bio). With Tony Niva you found an excellent new singer, but Andy had a certain style which became a trademark trough the years. To find an equal replacement probably wasn't easy.... How do you found the new members?

I had a bunch of songs that were more straight ahead compared to the stuff we did with Lions Share at the time, so I started thinking about doing a solo album. I mentioned I was looking for a singer at our homepage and received a whole bag of tapes and CD's! On one of these tapes I found Tony and was totally blown away. I played his tape and a couple of my new songs to Pontus and Johan and we all agreed this could be a great Lions Share record. Things weren't as good as it had been in the LS camp so it was a natural progression and things couldn't have turned out any better.

With Kay Backlund you lost one of the songwriters. How does that affect the work on Entrance?

Kay's input in the song writing was usually the symphonic instrumental parts and not so much riffs, verses, choruses and melodies, so Entrance is my song writing like before but without the progressive / symphonic instrumental passages. If you take the old songs and take out the instrumental parts it wouldn't be very much different from the style on Entrance. Andy's contribution was mainly the lyrics, and now they are written by Pontus instead. So for me personally it's not very different since I still write the same way I always did.

Do you think that the new line-up already changes the Lions Share sound?

We always try to make our albums sound different from each other anyway, but of course with a new singer and a more 'straight ahead' style this CD might stand out a bit more.

Has Tony been involved in the song writing? Or have Tony & Mat just add their own kinda style to the already written material?

Yes, the songs were already written before any of them came on board. Tony really liked the songs so there was no reason to change things when he joined.

In the past the song writing was done by you, Lars, and Kay. Did you wrote the material alone this time? Or as a team?

I wrote all melodies and all music except for 2 riffs on War Machine which was written by Pontus who also wrote all the lyrics.

Is there the music first? Or are you have ideas for lyrics and do the music then?

I don't write lyrics at all, so it's always the music and melodies for me.

With Thomas Vikström and Göran Edman you have two excellent singers doing backing vocals for you. How does it happened that these guys joined you?

We are friends with Thomas since way back and he's a great backing vocal arranger, so we use him plus another person as a tradition now (hehe). We have tossed him together with different persons for our different records, partly to get a new angle and also depending on who's available at the time.

Which is song is the most represantive for the album? Which songs would you recommend to get an idea about the "new" Lions Share?

That's a tough one. To get the complete pic­ture of the album you obviously must hear all the songs. Overall the songs are more up-tempo and totally un-progressive / straight ahead metal with cool riffs a la Saxon / Judas Priest / Accept, with catchy and strong melodies. Tony's voice is more high pitched like Rob Halford or Geoff Tate. If you like traditional heavy metal I would suggest Waiting or Shotgun Messiah. If you like more melodic AOR-ish metal I would suggest Believe or Through The Clouds.

Believe was chosen for some magazine compilation CDs. Was that your choice? Or did the label choose it?

I was told Rock Hard loved that song and said it could have been on MTV all the time in the 80's with for example Bon Jovi, so they really wanted that particular song on their 10x Dynamite CD. Massacre said we should use the same song on the Hammer CD, so it was actually Rock Hard's pick. I was actually really surprised because here in Sweden the common thinking is that German's only like double bass drum songs and in that case Shotgun Messiah would have been the obvious choice...

Can you tell something about the lyrics? Is there a song which is lyrically important to you?

I have never been interested in lyrics and only see them as a tool to express my melodies (hehe). Hopefully they are more important to Pontus since he wrote them.

Where do you find inspiration for the lyrics?

From life I guess. Some stuff is pure fantasy, but I think Andy was more into that while Pontus is more personal and sensitive in his writing.

Why do you chose this artwork? Who had the idea for it?

It was done by the same person who did Perspective and Two for us. His name is Niklas Westin and he's a really good airbrush artist and tattooer, so we are very happy about his work for us.

Don't you fear that people might expect a different kind of music from the image the artwork might give?

I don't know. I don't think it's THAT aggressive if that's what you mean. It's more beautiful and atmospheric in my opinion, while a heavier band would probably have had a darker and more aggressive approach (and some blood, hehe). We have learned that metal people prefer this kind of stuff compared to the Two cover with the dolphins in the chess board no matter what the music might sounds like.

Actually I was surprised to read in your bio that Perspective was released, coz I can't remember any information in magazines or that I saw it in the stores. It was released late last year. What was the idea behind this release? There are bonus tracks says the biography... What do you added?

Apparently Massacre didn't do their homework on that record then... Perspective are our first two albums Lion's Share and Two with the Japan bonus off Fall From Grace (Lions Share), Nothing's Free from the first printing of our debut and I Don't Believe In Love, which was originally recorded for a Queensrÿche tribute we pulled out of. The idea was to release these two albums as a 2CD-set sold to a single CD price, instead of releasing them separately on nice price. Lion's Share and Two is now totally out of print, so Perspective will be the record to buy if you want our first two albums from now on. It's also nice to have our complete back catalog on the same label (Massacre).

It's been a long time since you toured outside Scandinavia. In 1997 you toured with Iced Earth and Nevermore and got very good response by the audience. What happened that you just toured in Scandinavia afterwards?

We really would LOVE to tour Europe but it's really up to Massacre to get us on tour down there since it's their territory and they have to supply with tour support. Sweden and Finland was kept by ourselves so we can control tour support and finance tours from record sales up here. When we last toured Europe we were on Century Media who are very good at getting all their bands on tour to be able to sell more records and build a name. I really don't know why Massacre have another policy, but we are as sad about it as our fans.

Btw, the day after the tours last show in Falkenberg, you played a headlining show in Stockholm. How was it to play your own show again?

It was great. We really were in "touring mode" and the playing was so easy due to all the previous shows.

How were the reactions when you toured with Manowar, Motörhead and Dio? Were your expectations fulfilled?

Both the audience and the other bands were absolutely awesome! If some would have told me I would play on the same bill as these legends in Ice halls when I was a teenager, I would have laughed my ass off. It was an absolute dream come true and I'm not sure how we ever gonna top that adventure.

Any special experiences you made on this tours?

Every new tour and show give you something new that you can learn from and carry with you. Of course this was a huge tour so we saw and learned a lot.

The last time I saw Andy Engberg, he was touring with Therion as part of the choir. Did his work with Therion af;fected Lions Share?

No not at all. Andy was out of Lions Share before he was hired by Therion to do backing vocals for them.

Can we expect to see you on some festivals this summer? Will you go on tour to promote the album live?

We will play some warm up gigs in late May to get to know Tony on stage before we play the Sweden Rock Festival in June (with Helloween, WASP, Gary Moore, Hammerfall, Symphony X etc.). We will continue to play single shows and in September we will tour Sweden with Narnia and Insania Stockholm. We will continue to hope that Massacre will get us on tour in Europe as well.

I guess that you got the first reactions about the new CD from the media so far. How are the reactions on the first piece of music done with the new line-up?

Totally awesome! Everybody think it's our best CD so far, so the response have been even better than we could hope for. This new chapter of the Lions Share legacy is very exciting to us, so we are very happy and grateful for the warm response so far.

Music... Lars, you are also playing in a Kiss cover band. Are Kiss still a big influence for you?

They are the reason I started playing and have always been my biggest heroes. Paul Stanley is a fantastic songwriter and have always been a huge influence on my writing as well. I'm also a very big fan of Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath. The Mob Rules album with Dio on vocals is my all time favorite metal album.

Do you often play live with your cover band? Do you play a Kiss cover at headlining shows?

When Johan and I have time off from Lions Share and the other guys (Thomas Vikström & Ulf Larsson) are free as well, we play. We don't play any Kiss songs with Lions Share however.

Are you doing other stuff beside Lions Share? Studio jobs? Producing? Whatever?

I'm receiving producing offers now and then, but right now I'm actually studying to sound engineer at SAE here in Stockholm. I will graduate in December so if Lions Share doesn't take all my time next year, I might accept some offer to produce or mix a record. My dream is to build my own professional recording studio so I don't see myself disappearing from the music scene in a long time.

Tony, on the website you named your favorite singers which are very unusual for a metal singer. Only Tony Martin is from this genre, even if Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones are legends. Does the way of singing or more the entertaining fascinates you?

It's their fascinating history and the fact that they have entertained us for so many years, which is quite remarkable isn't it?

Will we ever got the chance to see you interpreting songs of them?

That idea has never occurred to me but still it's an interesting thought.

Claudia Ehrhardt


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