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Jacobs Dream

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Theater Of War, Jacobs Dream's new album is about to come out through Metal Blade Records. The band, formed in 1994 as Iron Angel, spent time in the studio in November and January to guarantee a worthy successor to their selftitled debut on Metal Blade Records. Theater Of War is a heavy melodic metal piece containing seven exellent new songs and the remakes of two tracks from the original demo CD. The upcoming release of this album was the chance to hook up with drummer Billy Queen.

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Discography: Demo-CD (1996), Self-titled (2000), Theater Of War (2001). Available through: Metal Blade Records. Official website: Jacobs Dream. Interview by: mpo. Date: May 18th 2001.

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You're about to release a new CD entitled Theater Of War through Metal Blade Records. How would you like to describe it yourself?

Well, it's a CD we're very proud of. We wanted this one to be a little heavier than the last CD. And I think we've achieved that. We pulled the guitar synths down into the mix a little more and we brought the rhythm guitar tracks up in the mix a little bit more. And we think it has a little crunchier sound than the first one and we're very happy with it. Have you heard it?

Yeah, I've heard it. I was just listening to it before you called.

And do you like it?

Yeah, I like it. But I don't know the first album so I can't compare it with that one. Uh, what are the influences that contributed to the sound of Jacobs Dream?

Well, there are many many influences. We all like heavy metal music, all different kinds. I'm a big Rush fan and I like Dream Theater. But I have so many different bands that I like a lot. I think about just any band in the classic or power metal genre influenced us. Most of the guys in Jacobs Dream grew up in the eighties. I grew up during the seventies and eighties. So my influences go back a little further than some of them. Starting with bands like Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. That's the kinda stuff I grew up on. Then we have Derek (Eddleblute) in the band now and Derek has a very wide variety of influences too. He comes out of a blues rock type of background. A lot of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn and different things of that nature. So, actually, Jacobs Dream is influenced from a wide variety of different types of metal.

And what influences you as a drummer? What drummer do you like and do you take influences from?

Well, Neil Peart from Rush is probably my favourite drummer. I've learned more from studying his rhythm patterns than I probably have from many other sources. I don't really play like Neil Peart. I play like I do. But as far as song structures and rhythmic composition I really like Neil Peart a lot. I like Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater. Another drummer I like a lot is Cozy Powell. I like Tommy Aldridge quite a bit. Then I like a lot of jazz drummers that I'm sure nobody has ever heard of before. So I have a wide variety of influences in my drumming as well.

I'm a little bit surprised that you don't mention Lars Ulrich from Metallica. There's a reason why I say that because at the end of the titlesong of the new album there's the same sort of drum rhythm pattern as the song One from Metallica. So I was reminded of that song, just by that piece of drumming. That's why I thought you listened quite intently to Metallica. But that was my idea.

Well, that's quite a compliment. Thank you very much! Yeah, I do like him. He's a very good drummer. Like I said, there are so many drummers. I mentioned a few. Yeah, Lars is definitely a good drummer. And I've studied quite a few of their albums as well. And I was probably influenced by a lot of his rhythm patterns. So, yeah, I would say that that's probably a very astute observation on your part.

The booklet of the CD states that all music was written by the band. So how does the band write its music? Is it that someone makes the skeleton of a song and the rest of the band contributes little bits and pieces? Or does it start with a lyrical thing or whatever?

Well, it can happen in any way but usually it's John Berry who has the very first ideas for the songs. And he'll come in and he will either just play us the riffs he has been working on or he'll record them on a four track at home and bring the tape in. He'll presents the ideas for songs. We start listening to it and make suggestions and everybody will offer their opinions and start working on their own parts. And eventually a song develops. David (Taylor) usually writes the lyrics to the songs. But, I mean, it can happen in any way. Any of us are capable to bring in ideas for songs. And sometimes we'll just be jamming. Sometimes somebody will start. And of course, these are just examples. But James (Evans) might start a really cool bass line and I start playing to it and then John will do something on top of it. And then we are "hey, that's pretty cool, we need to remember that. We need to hold on to that. Maybe we can start working on something there.' So, when it says 'all songs written by Jacobs Dream' it truly is a collaborative effort. And we all are very comfortable with offering ideas. And we are all very willing to explore each others ideas. So, it is a very unique process. And the fact that we are all such very good friends and we all respect each other as musicians so highly that we all feel honoured to be playing with each other and we are willing to work on ideas that anybody will submit. It works out really well for us that way.

I'm wondering because songs sometimes start spontaneously, do you rehearse a lot?

Yeah, actually we do. We rehearse at least three times a week. And we've been playing a lot of local gigs. And we've been working on our live show. Sometimes we rehearse three times a week plus play gigs. Like tomorrow we're going to rehearse in the afternoon and then we're going to play in a club tomorrow night. So, yeah, we've been working hard. We want people to be impressed with our live show. We know people work hard for their money. And when they go buy a concert ticket or when they go buy a CD and they spend that money, we feel that we owe people a very good show and we want to be able to play the very best we possibly can. So we believe in rehearsing a lot and playing to the very best of our ability every time we play.

And what is the influence of you as the drummer on the songs?

Well, that's a good question actually. I play drums a little more aggressively than the drummer they had on their last CD. So that alone is going to change the whole feel of the band. Anytime you get a new drummer that's the very basic part of any song that you play. That's the very core of the rhythm pattern. When I came in I told them that I'm an aggressive drummer and I play pretty hard and I play pretty heavy. And they really like it a lot. So that reenergized everybody, you know. And it kinda excited everybody because they had been looking for a heavy metal drummer. So we clicked very well from the start. That is a big part of why this CD probably sounds a little heavier than the first one. Simply because I play a little heavier than the first drummer did.

When I listen to the album the drum sound is almost like a live drumming. Just the sound of it. A raw sound. Is that what you set out to do?

Well, we started experimenting with drum sounds. And I took in a couple of different kits and worked turning them in different heads. We actually spent about a week just on the drums. We ended up with the sound that you like. It did kinda sound like a live drum kit. We kinda liked it. Out of all the things we had worked with that was the one we thought that would probably sound best in the end. So it was intentional that we were looking for a good drum sound. But the one we settled for is basically just one that we kinda ended up with. After all the experimenting with different kits and different heads and different turnings and things of that nature. So, it's both. It was on purpose but I can't honestly say that I purposely knew how to get that sound out of the kit. If just kinda worked out that way. So, we are really happy with it.

Theater Of War is a self produced album. Why did you decide to produce it yourself rather than getting help from an outside expert?

There are a couple of reasons for that. One was time. We were just unable to find someone that we were really comfortable with and the time came upon us when we were supposed to be in the studio. So we thought "we have a pretty good grip on what we're looking for and what we're hoping to get out of the CD, so why don't we try producing this one ourselves?" Also, Joe Viers, who is the chief engineer at John Schwab Studios where we recorded this, gave us a tremendous amount of help production wise. With all of his knowledge and with the experience that we've been gaining it worked out pretty well. We may end up with a producer for the next CD. We haven't really started to think about that aspect of it yet. But, it was both the time consideration and the fact that we couldn't find anybody else that we were really comfortable with. And we're all such good friends and we are also open and honest with each other that it was not a problem to sit down and express our opinions and ideas. We're very lucky in that respect. So, it worked out well for us this time.

When the band started working on the album you had prepared several songs including Third Way, Magic Garden and Rotunda Pigs. These songs will not appear on Theater Of War. Why?

(laughs) Yeah, that was a statement from a member who is no longer in the band. I don't even know who he originally told that to. But then we saw that at several places. The reason they didn't end up on the CD is that Rotunda Pigs is still in the working stage. We never did finish working on that song. Magic Garden is a song that I wrote a couple of years ago. And Third Way was a song that belonged entirely to Jonny Noble (former guitarist). So when Jonny Noble and Gary Holtzman left the band we couldn't put Third Way on our CD of course. Because it was specifically his song. The other two weren't ready yet. We weren't happy with them. There were parts that we didn't feel were quality enough. You might also have seen that the name the CD was going to have was Third Way. And that was something that kind of was in the discussion stage. So, that was a statement that never should have been made. Because it was not something that was discussed among the band. It certainly wasn't anything that had been decided upon yet.

So it was premature. Because these songs were skipped is that the reason you redid two songs that were from the demo CD?

Oh, no, not really! We were going to put those songs on the CD anyway. We have had a tremendous number of requests to rerecord some of these that were on the demo. And we couldn't do them all. Otherwise we would just rerecord the demo again. But those were two songs that we have had a huge number of requests for. So we put those on this CD. But those were always going to be on the CD. They didn't have anything to do with the other songs not being on there.

Okay. One of these two songs that were remade is called Sarah Williams. I'm quite surprised by this lyric as it seems to deal about something that really happened. What is the story of that song?

Actually, Sarah Williams is a fictional character. But it is based on true events. I think the statistics are that around 15,000 people a year get killed in the United States by drunk drivers. And we just kinda thought it was a subject that we should put out there and try to get people to think about. And especially since this song is written from the viewpoint of a man who has done something horrible. He killed someone that he loved and he's going to live with that guilt and pain for the rest of his life. We just thought that it was the appropriate time to put that song out to the general public. So hopefully people will listen to it and think about the subject.

Because it was written from the viewpoint of a drunken driver and the emotions seemed so genuine it almost seemed like it happened to one of the band members. But that's not the case.

Right. That's not the case. Although it is based on a combination of several true stories that we know of. Just because it's such a prominent problem here in the United States it is a subject that we're very concerned about. And David is capable of singing with a lot of feeling and a lot of emotion. We're quite happy actually. We think the song turned out real well. And we do hope that it makes people think about driving drunk.

Okay. Something else now. Earlier this year two members of Jacobs Dream left the band. You already talked about that. I'm speaking of Gary Holtzman and Jon Noble. What are the reasons for their departures?

Basically there was just a difference of opinions and viewpoints and visions about band management and business ideas and things of that nature. And we were not able to reconcile the differences. So we decided that it would probably be the best if we just all parted ways. I want to make it clear that we wish Jon and Gary all the best of luck in everything they do. And we wish them success. We really hope they can achieve what it is they are after. Those of us who are left in Jacobs Dream really had a different idea about what Jacobs Dream should be. Therefore we continued as Jacobs Dream and we hired one new guitarist whose name is Derek Eddleblute, to replace Jonny and Gary. It's working out very well. Cutting back from three guitars to two guitars is working very well for us. It was a very good decision on everybody's part.

According to the Jacobs Dream website the two left the band in January but the band was already recording in November but they didn't play on the album. Does that also have to do with their departures?

Well, it did take some extra time. We had to go back to rerecord some of the guitar parts that Jonny Noble had already laid down. Gary had not yet laid any guitar tracks down. There was some conflict in the band. It is kinda hard to describe. I just want to say we were friends with Gary and Jonny and it was very painful for us. Because we've been through a lot together. It was a whole new idea of continuing Jacobs Dream without them. So it was a little time consuming. But we brought Derek in and Derek picked right up on everything and did a great job. So it didn't set us back very far. Jonny had laid down guitar tracks on several of the songs but we were able to go back and rerecord them without any problems.

I want to talk about the touring. Last year you played several festival including Wacken Open Air and Bang Your Head in Germany. You also did a European tour with Armored Saint and Brainstorm. How were these experiences?

Well, I tell ya! (laughs). Let me start with the very first one. The Bang Your Head Festival (laughs). We had a lot of sound problems on stage. And that was a terrible performance! Nobody could hear the drums and I couldn't hear any of them and none of them could hear each other. And all we could do was stand on stage and try and watch each other play so we could stay together in the songs (laughs). And I tell ya! When we came off stage and looked at each other and we went: "Oh, God, that was terrible!" (laughs). So we know that was a terrible performance for us. But it was the very first time we'd ever been in Europe. It was the very first time we had realized what the European fans expect out of a band. The Wacken Festival was a much better show. We had a good sound and we came out and were able to be ourselves on stage. We were energetic and running around. You know, David was sick. David hurt his back terribly before we did the Bang Your Head Festival and he had just gone to the doctor's office and they shot him with a bunch of something. I don't know what. Painkillers and all kinds of stuff. Just so he could even stand up on stage long enough to do that performance. But the Wacken Festival was much better. The tour with Armored Saint and Brainstorm was just like any tour. We had some shows that we thought we could have done better. Certain things go wrong. Strings break. Amplifiers quit working. Chords go bad. Those kind of things happen. But then some of the shows were really really good. And the biggest thing it did for us was that it taught us more about what European heavy metal fans expect out of a band. And it's a little different there than it is here in the United States. But we gained a wealth of knowledge and experience from it. We fell in love with the guys from Brainstorm. And they are great. They are great musicians. Great guys. They made us feel very welcome. They were very friendly. And, of course, Armored Saint was too. Very cordial to us being an opening band. The biggest we have learned from these trips to Europe is that we absolutely love the people over there and the culture. The people have been friendly and courteous and have made us feel welcome and have helped us. And, I tell ya, it has been an absolutely wonderful experience. We are so thrilled that we got the opportunity to come over there and meet as many people as we did. And we're really hoping to be able to come back again soon because we absolutely love it there.

What is the difference of what people expect in Europe compared to America? Can you tell about that?

Yeah. European fans expect something a little more visual. Over here in the United States it's more of the audio what people are concerned with. So, the first we had to do was actually work on our stage presence. Rather than going out there and play they wanted to see a show. And here in the United States going out there and playing sometimes is the show. So, how you dress is a little more important there than it is here. Over here you can go out on stage in jeans and a T-shirt or shorts or whatever you want to wear. People don't really care what you wear. Whereas over there it's more the heavy metal look that people are looking for. They want to see the heavy metal dress. And they want you to project that heavy metal image off the stage. And that was quite interesting for us and we've been working on that. And I think the next time we're able to play over there people will definitely see a difference.

And does the difference between the US and Europe have to do with the fact that metal isn't a trend in your country like it is in some parts of Europe?

You know, I think that probably has a lot to do with it. During the 1980's here in the United States there were a lot of the big power metal bands that were very very popular. And they had the same kind of stage show and the dress and the look and the attitude and all those kinds of things. But that kind of went by the wayside here in the States. Of course now the mainstream music is playing nothing but the Britney Spears, the pop and the boy bands. A lot of rap and hiphop. And the new metal stuff like Korn and Limp Bizkit and all that kinda stuff. And they are more of a grungy type of dress. Not that they're associated with the grunge sound which came out of Seattle. But I'm saying their type of dress is nothing like the typical heavy metal with the leather and the studs and that kinda stuff. Over there in Europe the first thing we noticed as soon as we stepped off the plane was that it's kind of like things were here in the United States during the eighties. And we honestly weren't prepared for that. We had never been there before. When we came to play the Bang Your Head Festival. The style of music over here has changed and the style of music that's popular now doesn't really lend itself to that type of stage show.

Okay. And what are the plans now of doing tours and festivals and those sort of things?

Metal Blade has not offered us a tour yet. But we've let them know that we are available and that we want to. They probably won't make any touring plans until the CD is released. And it's not going to be released here in the United States until the first part of July. So you're talking about a six week difference there between the release date in Europe and the release date here. So, they probably won't make any tour plans for us until the CD was actually released. But, I tell ya, we really want to come back and play. We are hoping and praying that they do organize a tour over there for us. Because we enjoy your countries and your fans. And we enjoy meeting the new people and the new fans so very much. We are just bugging them (Metal Blade) to death: "When are we going to tour? What are you working on? Are you getting us a tour together now?" They know we want to and I imagine that we will end up playing over there very soon. There are not any specific plans made yet. Actually, everybody that wants to see Jacobs Dream play over there live should probably get a hold of Metal Blade Records and let them know that they would like to see Jacobs Dream back in Europe.

Well, that's a good idea.

And now Andreas (of Metal Blade Records Europe) is going to get about a thousand E-mails in his mailbox and he's gonna call me and scream at me: "Billy, why did you say that? I've been flooded with E-mails!!!" (laughs)

The computer is going to crash with all those E-mails. Uh, what band would you like to tour with?

Oh, there are so many! There are so many good bands on Metal Blade's label. And there are so many good bands on the other labels that they associate with. We don't really care who we play with. We will play for anyone, at any time. We just wanna play. I would love to tour with Brainstorm again. Like I said, we fell in love with those guys, man! And they are a great group of guys. I don't know if that'd be possible 'cause I think they've got another CD coming out of their own pretty soon. But, we don't really care who it's with. We just want to come back and play again.

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