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Balance Of Power

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July 23rd marked the European release of the new CD from the band Balance Of Power. This British/American quintet offers on their latest effort a splendid mix of heavy metal music with catchy vocals. With this album under their belts it was time to hear what drummer Lionel Hicks had to say about the record, the band and future touring.

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Discography: When The World Falls Down (1997), Book Of Secrets (1998), Ten More Tales... Of Grand Illusion (1999), Perfect Balance (2001). Available through: Massacre Records. Official website: Balance Of Power. Interview by: mpo. Date: August 23rd 2001

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You have just released your new album Perfect Balance. Can you remember when you first heard the final mix and what did you think?

When we first did the final mix, it was in America. Obviously I was there doing it. And we were really pleased. We thought it was our best album to date, you know. I mean, often you think that and it's like a test of time. But I really think that it's kind of come together this time with all the elements there. That's why we called it Perfect Balance. Because, you know, I think it's got power and energy and heaviness but it also has got melody and quiet passages. So it's dynamic as well. That's one of the reasons we called it Perfect Balance, because, we think, musically to us it is.

As it comes to the music on Perfect Balance what elements of it are essential to the sound of Balance Of Power?

Really, it's kind of what I just talked about. We always like working with heavy riff structures from the guitar. But the main thing that we're always trying to get across is a song. And a lot of bands in our kind of field are very progressive. They often miss the point with the chorus vocal melody. And that's really important for us. So we start with a heavy riff and then work on the chorus being a big hook so you can kind of sing along to it later. Like it sticks in your mind. I would say that that heaviness and that melody is kind of the trademark of Balance Of Power.

So it is a combination of heaviness with catchiness.

Yeah.

The band currently hasn't got a keyboard player. Yet keyboards are all over the record. Why did you include keyboards in the recording?

We do actually have a session keyboard player that plays live with us. And he has done the recording on the album. It's a guy called Leon Lawson. But he's not a full time member of the band 'cause he's also in a band called Praying Mantis. And it just works better. We used to have a full time keyboard player in the band before. A guy called Ivan Gunn. There were often problems keyboard wise. Because we think keyboards are great, you know, and they serve their place. But essentially we're a guitar based band. And when you have a full time keyboard player they want the keyboards to play more of a part of the whole thing. So, since we split off from Ivan Gunn, we decided that the best way is probably to have a session keyboard player so we can write and create music how we want without having to fight for having less keyboards. I mean, keyboards are great but sometimes if you use them too much it makes the music wimpy and we rather stick to the heavy, crunchy guitar kind of sound and then we have keyboards to embellish around that.

So, the band will not look for a permanent keyboard player.

Well, there's no need at this stage. You could, in a way, say that Leon is our permanent keyboard player. Because he plays live with us and he records. And while he can still fit that in when he's playing with Praying Mantis as well, then we're sure he will remain the keyboard player.

You are the drummer of the band and you also produced the new album. Do you think that with you being the drummer the recording of Perfect Balance was different than if the album had another producer?

I don't think so. I mean, as a producer in general I do all the work as well. And I always try and be objective about the mix in general and what you can hear and so forth. A lot of musicians they have this problem if they're the drummer or the guitarist and they're involved with that, they tend to put that as priority. And even make it overfed in the mix. But I think I'm objective enough to look at the whole thing so when I'm actually producing I'm not thinking from a drummers point of view. I'm just thinking of the general sound of the album.

And when you're recording as the drummer yourself, what do you think of your role as the drummer within the band?

Oh, I think it's very important. Because I structure the rhythm and feel from the beginning of the writing of the songs. Because we write together. I'm right there at the beginning, trying out different beats. There's a strong kind of rhythmical base to the whole thing, you know. It really moves all the time. I think this is part of what I do. It's often simplified in some cases but I like that. I like to get this almost trashing going with the drums, because I feel that. It makes it feel good which is something different to this kind of music sometimes

Do you try to say that you're keeping your drumming simple in a way, straight forward?

Yeah, I mean, I think so. I work on the overall feel of the groove, rather than like "what kind of fill can I get in here. How many times can I go round the tom toms on this part?" It's the overall groove and it's worked out very closely with the bass guitar, you know.

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