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.